Today you can stay home while dinner from your favorite restaurant is delivered to your door. You can go grocery shopping from the comfort of your living room. You can choose the perfect gift for your best friend’s birthday, or select personalized dog toys without leaving your house. So, why not stay home and get screened for colorectal cancer? The convenience may sound appealing, but you need to learn all the facts before you skip out on a colonoscopy and simply take an at-home test.
What Are My Options?
Currently, at-home screening tests are getting a lot of press. The convenience and privacy these tests provide are the selling points. This screening examines your stool for cells of abnormal DNA or traces of blood that signify colorectal cancer or polyps. Abnormal growths in the colon or rectum are called polyps. These growths are precancerous at first but, when left unattended, they can eventually develop into cancer.
Another test that feels less invasive is a CT colonography. In this screening, a CT scanner and computer program create a 3D view of the inside of the intestine. A CT colonography attempts to locate both precancerous or cancerous polyps. You may consider a fecal immunochemical test (FIT) that checks the stool for blood samples that designates the presence of polyps or colorectal cancer. While these tests are certainly listed as options, they are not recommended by gastrointestinal specialists.
A Colonoscopy is Still Your Best Bet
In the options listed above you may have noticed that most of them look for both noncancerous polyps or colorectal cancer. What may not be clear to most perspective patients is that, particularly at-home tests, are less effective in finding precancerous conditions. Because of this, the tests are recommended to be repeated yearly in the hope that they will eventually detect the cancer. When it comes to a cancer diagnosis, do you want to sit in limbo? Why waste your time with a test that tells you: It could be cancer. Patients having a positive result using an at-home tests are referred to a gastroenterologist for a colonoscopy to clarify the results. False positives are common and, the colonoscopy following a positive diagnosis from at-home test showed there was not cancer after all. Unfortunately, most insurance companies then classify the follow-up colonoscopy as diagnostic and do not cover the full amount of the procedure. The patient is responsible for any copays or deductibles found in their particular policy.
When a colonoscopy is the first line of defense, it’s fully covered by your insurance company. Plus, it’s the best form of screening that can actually prevent cancer, not just diagnose it. During a colonoscopy, your doctor can both detect and remove polyps before they develop into cancer. The at-home tests have strictly diagnostic intents, whereas a colonoscopy is a preventative measure.
Who Needs a Colonoscopy?
The American Cancer Society recommends that all adults schedule a colonoscopy when they are at least 45 years old. Please note that most insurance companies have not changed the minimum age for screening colonoscopies from 50 to 45. Risk factor can change age recommendations, it is important to discuss your risks with your doctor and follow your personalized screening schedule. Age is one of the main risk factors for colorectal cancer as well as a family history of colon or rectal cancer. Your risk increases if you smoke, drink alcohol, or have an inflammatory bowel disease like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
Don’t let the convenience of staying home keep you from this potentially life-saving test. Schedule your colonoscopy at Carolina Digestive Health Associates today. The accuracy of this test is worth the peace of mind and the opportunity to prevent cancer from even developing.