(AscendHealthy.com) – The CDC recommends that all people get routine colon cancer screening by the time they’re 50, although the American Cancer Society argues that regular checkups should begin closer to 45.
There are several screening methods available beyond the standard — and often dreaded — colonoscopy, but not all of them are appropriate for everyone. Sifting through all the risks and benefits can be grueling. Here are the plain and simple facts about each option.
Stool Sample Test
Tests that use stool samples to screen for colon cancer look for blood, antibodies or evidence of altered DNA in the stool. You can take many of these tests from the comfort of your own home, although some may need to be performed at a doctor’s office.
Cologuard and similar fecal tests can detect about 92% of all colon cancers, but they do sometimes produce both false-positive and false-negative results. The CDC recommends this type of screening every 1 to 3 years.
This test is a lot like a colonoscopy, only a little less invasive. Instead of examining the entire colon, a flexible sigmoidoscopy only searches the lower third. Doctors can use this method to investigate polyps, but it’s much less thorough than a full colon exam, so it might miss some problem areas. The CDC recommends getting this test every 5 years, or every 10 years alongside stool sample tests.
This technique uses computed tomography (CT), which pieces together x-rays to form a virtual image of a person’s colon. CT scans aren’t physically invasive, which makes them a better option for some people. However, virtual colonoscopies can’t take tissue samples if something looks amiss. Also, the FDA warns that CT scans require exposure to several x-rays’ worth of radiation, which may raise cancer risks.
Double-Contrast Barium Enema
According to the National Cancer Institute, barium imaging is usually reserved for people who are at risk of suffering complications from standard colonoscopies and aren’t candidates for other options. The patient receives a barium enema, which makes the colon more visible, and then the doctor takes x-ray images of the rectum and colon. This test is very limited, but it can detect areas that might need further investigation.
This alternative uses a blood sample to detect the presence of SEPT9, a gene variant prominent in colon cancer. Experts aren’t certain about its effectiveness in reducing colorectal cancer deaths, but it’s approved by the FDA for patients over 50 who’ve repeatedly declined other recommended screening methods.
An estimated 53,000 people die from colorectal cancer each year, according to the American Cancer Society, although the overall death rate appears to be on the decline. One reason for this positive trend is increased screening and life-saving early detection. People over 50 who haven’t been screened for colon cancer should talk to their doctors to see which options are best for them.
~Here’s to Your Healthy Ascension
Copyright 2023, AscendHealthy.com