A colonoscopy isn’t anything to get excited about. In fact, most patients approach them with dread and anxiety. However, regular colon screening is your best defence against colon cancer. Colorectal screenings are able to identify polyps, which are the earliest warning signs of colon cancer, before other symptoms are even present. If a polyp is detected during a routine screening, they can be removed before they become cancerous.
Colon screenings can also detect colon cancer in the earliest stages, when the cancer is quite simple to treat. Here are the most common colon cancer screening methods available:
Guaiac-based fecal occult blood test, or gFOBT, is a fecal immunochemical test (or FIT), which is used to detect the presence of trace blood in the patient’s stool, which is often a early warning sign of colon cancer. gFOBTs can be taken at home using a kit and a stool sample submitted to their doctor. Physicians will often use this test to rule out cancer, if they suspect hemorrhoids or colon ulcers.
2. DNA stool test
This colon screening test is the least invasive colorectal cancer test available. It’s ideal for patients who fear a colonoscopy, or are unable to do the bowel preparation leading up to a colonoscopy. This stool-based screening is a home kit that lets the patient collect a stool sample at home and mail it to the lab for testing. Once at the lab, the sample is tested for a particular gene that signals the presence of colorectal cancer cells (or pre-cancerous polyps). If cancer is detected, a patient will require a colonoscopy to confirm colon cancer.
3. Flexible sigmoidoscopy
This test is not as thorough as a colonoscopy, as it only inspects for polyps in the colon and rectum. Less bowel prep (i.e., laxatives and enemas) are necessary, and no sedation is required. However, If a polyp is detected, they are removed immediately. If abnormal tissues are found, doctors typically follow up with a colonoscopy.
This minor invasive screening, features a thin, flexible tube attached to a small camera, which is lit and fed through the length of the colon and rectum to screen for polyps. Prior to your colonoscopy, patients are asked to adhere to a special diet and cleanse the colon with a bowel prep (or strong laxative and an enema). Colonoscopies require patients to be sedated in case a polyp is found. If so, it can then be removed during the test. Ideally, colonoscopies should be done after age 50, and every 10 years after if no issues are detected.
5. CT colonography
CT colonography, or virtual colonoscopies, take image scans of the colon and rectum that medical professionals can inspect for polyps or abnormal tissues. Patients require no sedation for this procedure as it only requires pumped air into the colon so CT scans can capture images.