By Sara Bondell
Colon cancer is one of the most common cancers in men and women in the United States, but many who should be screened aren’t. Could fear and anxiety of a colonoscopy be to blame?
There may be a solution: at-home screening tests.
New research shows a fecal immunochemical test, or FIT, is an effective screening method for colorectal cancer for those at an average risk for the disease. At-home kits are available by prescription through your doctor and offer simple directions on how to collect a stool sample and send it to a lab for analysis. The test looks for blood in the stool, which may be an early sign of colon cancer. It does not directly pick up polyps or cancer, like a colonoscopy, which is still considered the gold standard when it comes to screening.
“The test needs to be taken yearly to be an effective screening method,” said Moffitt Cancer Center gastroenterologist Dr. Mark Friedman. “It is important to note that it is not a ‘one and done’ test and patients with a positive FIT need to follow up with a colonoscopy.”
Doctors recommend a colonoscopy every 10 years after the age of 50 for those at average risk. However, with the rate of colon cancer increasing in younger people, the American Cancer Society began recommending average-risk adults start screening at age 45.
You are considered average risk if you:
- Have no family history of colorectal cancer
- Have no personal history of inflammatory bowel disease
- Have no previous colon cancer or detected precancerous polyps