Story by: Norton Healthcare; Reviewed by Michael F. Driscoll, M.D. on June 29, 2023
If you’ve been avoiding getting a colon cancer screening, there are colonoscopy alternatives such as Cologuard or a fecal immunochemical test (FIT) that can catch colon cancer early while it’s still very treatable.
A colonoscopy is the best way to detect colon cancer and allows the surgeon to remove any polyps or tumors during the procedure. Cologuard and FIT are simple tests you can do at home and involve little more than your bathroom and mailing a package.
Colonoscopy alternatives like stool tests are only for people with an average risk of colon cancer. Colonoscopies are still recommended if you have a close relative who was diagnosed before age 60, have any family history of inheritable cancers or have inflammatory bowel disease.
More options make it easier to catch colon cancer while it’s most curable. Talk to a staff member about your options.
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Colon cancer is the third most common cancer and one of the most curable if caught early. Colon cancer screening age guidelines have been modified in recent years — people with no family history or other risk factors are now advised to start at age 45.
“Fecal colon cancer tests have made it easier to screen for colon cancer, and Cologuard catches about 92% of cancers,” said Michael F. Driscoll, M.D., medical oncologist with Norton Cancer Institute. “A fecal test is better than putting off a screening any longer.”
Both tests look for signs of cancer in your stool.
Your health care provider will prescribe the test, which will arrive with instructions for collecting a sample and sending it back to the lab. In addition to Norton Community Medical Associates primary care providers, Norton Prompt Care Clinic providers can provide Cologuard prescriptions.
Cologuard looks for DNA mutations and other signs of possible colon cancer, possibly identifying colon cancer before symptoms appear. The FIT looks for hidden blood that could be from polyps or tumors.
Once you’ve collected your stool sample, you’ll place it in the return-mail package and send it off for testing.
Part of the sample collection kit includes a dish that goes under the toilet seat. Depending on the test, you’ll either use a stick or brush that comes with the kit to collect a sample. Some colonoscopy alternatives like Cologuard require you to send an entire bowel movement — however much that means for you.
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