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Testing Options for Colon Cancer

Types of colon screening procedures you should know about

Colon Cancer Screening Options

Colon cancer is one of the most common cancers, and one of the easiest to treat when detected early.  According to the American Cancer Society, the incidence rate for colorectal cancer has dropped over the last 20 years, due in large part to colon screenings.

That’s why regular screenings are so important. While most of us have heard of colonoscopies there are multiple types of colon screenings. Some involve a trip to the doctor or an outpatient care center, while others can be purchased as a kit at your local pharmacy and conducted at home. According to the American Cancer Society, colon screenings vary in accuracy, prevention potential, cost and risks, so it’s best to talk to your doctor to decide which is best for you.

Here is some helpful insight on what to expect for different types of colon screenings:

Colonoscopies detect and prevent cancer
Colonoscopies are the most common and popular screening options for colon cancer.  It’s often the best option for people at normal risk for colon cancer because it helps detect precancerous growths in the colon (polyps) and treat them before they become cancer. If your doctor finds a polyp during your colonoscopy, he or she can remove it quickly and easily – without need for follow up testing or procedures.  That way, you only go through the prep and the procedure once, the problem is taken care of, and you are sent home the same day.  Really, the benefit of getting a colonoscopy is a two-fold: it both detects and prevents cancer. It is the simplest and smartest way to protect yourself from colon cancer.

Tests that detect colon cancer
Besides colonoscopy, there are a few options for colon cancer screenings that can be completed with a simple blood test or lab test. These include the FOBT (fecal occult blood test), the FIT (fecal immunochemical test) and the Stool DNA test. It’ s important to note that these tests are designed to detect colon cancer and not pre-cancerous polyps.

Your doctor can tell you if these tests are good options for you. Some people find these test less invasive and easier to tackle because they can be completed at home. They are also relatively inexpensive.

The examinations are completed with a screening kit. Samples are sent to a lab for testing, and when completed, results should be delivered to your doctor. If results are positive or unclear, your doctor may recommend a colonoscopy for further examination.

Consult your doctor
As with any medical conditions or medical tests, it’s important to understand your risk factors and which exams are best for you. Talk to your doctor or find a physician at UVMHealth.org/CVPH. He or she can steer you in the right direction.

Not sure if your at risk?
Click here to learn more about colon screening and to take a quiz to determine your risk.