It’s a test you don’t want to miss
Screening for colorectal cancer gives you the rare opportunity to undergo a test that can actually prevent cancer.
“Colorectal screening tests can detect colon polyps at an early stage, before they develop into colon cancer, and in many instances can prevent colon cancer entirely,” says Mark S. Codella, MD, a gastroenterologist at Nazareth Hospital.
Precancerous polyps of the colon can be removed during a colonoscopy, preventing further progression to an advanced cancer.
Whichever colorectal screening test you choose, you should have it when you turn 50. African Americans should be screened at age 45, while other high-risk patients may require even earlier screening. Talk with your doctor about which of these common tests is right for you and how often you should be tested:
Colonoscopy. Dr. Codella calls this test “the gold standard” because it is the best test for finding and removing polyps from the entire colon. Its main downside is the prep work you must do to empty your bowel before the test, though the prep is a lot easier now than in the past.
Flexible sigmoidoscopy. Although similar to a colonoscopy, this test can only examine the inside of the lower colon, which means it could miss polyps on the right side of the colon. You still have to do the bowel prep work, and if a polyp or cancer is found, you’ll need a full colonoscopy.
FIT test. This test detects blood in your stool, a possible sign of cancer. You can do the test at home. You place a tiny amount of stool in a vial or on a card using a small stick or probe, and you mail the sample to our lab. If results are positive, you’ll need a colonoscopy.