FIT is fairly easy and gives you privacy, but it may not detect a tumor or polyp that’s not bleeding. Colonoscopy is the best way to screen for colon cancer.
Turning 50? Aside from celebrating your milestone birthday, you have something else to add to your to-do list: Scheduling a colon cancer screening.
Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in men and women and one of the most curable if caught early. The American Cancer Society estimates more than 97,220 people will learn they have colon cancer in 2018.
A colonoscopy is the best way to detect colon cancer. However, many people avoid getting a colonoscopy for a variety of reasons, such as worrying about the prep or taking time off from work.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations now include more screening options, including a fecal immunochemical test (FIT). While not as thorough as a colonoscopy, FIT is a better option than no screening at all.
FIT checks for hidden blood in stool, which can be a symptom of colon cancer. With FIT, you collect a small amount of stool on cards or in tubes. There is no liquid diet or special preparation instructions. You mail your sample off, and your provider will review your results.
Pros and cons of FIT
While FIT is simpler than a colonoscopy, it may not detect a tumor or polyp that’s not bleeding. Whereas during a colonoscopy, your provider may find and remove polyps before they become a problem — whether they are bleeding or not.
FIT needs to be done yearly. If you have a colonoscopy and everything looks normal, you won’t need another one for 10 years. With FIT, if you have a positive result, you likely will end up needing a colonoscopy anyway. (However, a positive FIT result doesn’t necessarily mean you have colon cancer; conditions such as ulcers or hemorrhoids can cause a positive test result.)
Is FIT for you?
If you’ve been avoiding a colonoscopy for any reason, consider FIT. It’s better than not being screened at all.