The prevalence and necessity of colonoscopies is pretty well understood in the gastroenterology world, and the team at GI Associates love to educate all of our patients, especially those in the approaching age 45. With the recent rise of colon cancer amongst young adults, we were excited to hear that The American Cancer Society changed the recommendation for screening colonoscopies to begin at age 45 instead of the previous age of 50. But with these changes come more discussion of alternatives to colonoscopies, which may not be giving you the same results.
What Are My Other Options?
There are actually alternatives to colonoscopies out there, although they cannot compete when it comes to a full understanding of your colorectal health. When you have a colonoscopy, a small camera is inserted through your rectum and colon, looking for the presence of polyps which may indicate the presence of cancer. They can be removed and analyzed, with follow-up exams and colonoscopies done as needed. For people who are looking for something different, there are actually tests that can be done at home as well.
How Can I Test At Home?
There are currently two different tests which can be conducted at home, a Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) and a Stool DNA Test (FIT-DNA). Both of these tests are conducted through a patient-collected stool sample and sent off to a lab for testing. The stool samples are checked for DNA biomarkers, blood, and certain proteins. If the tests come back positive, or seem suspicious, your doctor will refer you for a colonoscopy.
This Seems Easy, Why Isn’t It More Common?
While these at-home tests do show a small amount of success in reducing colorectal cancer deaths, their success rates are nowhere near those of regular colonoscopies. The tests require a sanitary stool collection, which may be hard to achieve. They are also much more likely to find cancerous polyps than precancerous ones, finding polyps before they become malignant is a huge benefit to a colonoscopy. Once the polyps are in the cancerous stage, treatment is more difficult. Additionally, the tests need to be performed much more frequently, leading to higher costs and inconvenience for the user. Lastly, they are more prone to false positives than a colonoscopy, which may lead to higher healthcare costs and unnecessary worry.
What Should I Be Doing To Fight Colorectal Cancer?
You should always start with fully understanding and monitoring your own health. Understand your body and your bowel habits, making sure to go to the doctor if anything changes. Make sure you maintain a healthy physical fitness routine, stay at an ideal weight, and adjust your diet to include a lot of fresh fruits and veggies and less red or processed meats. In addition to understanding your own health, you should be aware of your family health concerns as well. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, inform your doctor as it puts you at a higher risk. If you have any questions about the different tests available to detect colorectal cancer, or if you’re approaching 45 and need to start getting regular colonoscopies, make an appointment with the team at GI Associates so we can set you on the right course for proper colorectal health.