“Eat raw broccoli. Speak in front of 1,000 people. Go to the dentist. Mop the floor with a toothbrush.” If I were giving you these clues in the popular game show, $10,000 Pyramid, your answer would be, “Things I’d rather do than get a colonoscopy.” We get it. A colonoscopy does not sound appealing to most people. You could probably create a list a mile long of things you’d rather do than schedule this procedure. But suffering from cancer? We’re willing to bet that wouldn’t make your list. It’s time to prioritize a colonoscopy and protect yourself from colorectal cancer.

Aren’t There Other Options?

There are several options to test for colorectal cancer, yet none of them compare to the accuracy of a colonoscopy. A CT colonography generates a three-dimensional view of the inside of the colon and rectum using a CT scanner and computer programming. The goal with a CT colonography is to detect polyps or cancerous growths. Polyps are precancerous, abnormal growths in the tissue lining that will eventually develop into cancer if not removed. The fecal immunochemical test (FIT) is another form of colorectal screening. A FIT screening examines the stool for traces of blood as a result of polyps or colorectal cancer. An at-home screening, Cologuard, checks the stool for blood and abnormal DNA samples that indicate the presence of colorectal cancer. Neither the FIT or Cologuard score well in finding precancerous polyps, even advanced ones, so it is recommended that they be done yearly.

So, Why is a Colonoscopy Encouraged?

With options that seem much less invasive, why is a colonoscopy still the recommended form of screening? This is because the accuracy of a colonoscopy is second to none. And, unlike any other test, polyps that are detected during the procedure can be instantly removed. A colonoscopy is the only test that not only detects cancer but also prevents it from forming.

At-home screening tests have a 93% accuracy rate of finding cancer, while that sound pretty good, the physicians of GI Associates prefer to prevent cancers from developing by finding polyps while they are still precancerous. The at-home screening tests also commonly give a false positive. When this screening says you test positive for colorectal cancer, you then have to schedule a colonoscopy to determine the location and stage of cancer. 

In too many cases, the colonoscopy revealed that there was, in fact, no cancer present. What’s worse? In this circumstance, insurance may not cover the full cost of the colonoscopy. Especially for those on Medicare, a colonoscopy will be covered if it is truly a preventative screening. But if a colonoscopy occurs as a result of a positive reading on an at-home test, it is then defined as a therapeutic or diagnostic test. The Multi-Society Task Force on Colorectal Cancer does not claim that at-home tests are faulty. They do, however, recognize it as a reasonable second-line screening choice. The colonoscopy is considered first-tier.

Who Should Get a Colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy is recommended for anyone over the age of 45, although most insurance companies begin coverage for those at least age 50.  The risk for colorectal cancer increases with age, so scheduling regular screenings is crucial to catching polyps early. You also have a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer if you have a family history of colon or rectal cancer or polyps. If you have a history of polyps, your risk increases. If you have suffered from inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, you may be at risk for colorectal cancer. 

If any of these risk factors apply to you, don’t surrender to the convenience of an at-home colorectal screening test. Instead, make it a priority to get a colonoscopy. It may be the very thing that saves your life. Do your part in preventing colorectal cancer. Schedule your colonoscopy at GI Associates & Endoscopy Center today.

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