What you need to know about colorectal cancer screening

Colonoscopy is a common screening method to detect colorectal cancer in the United States.

The method is popular because the procedure cannot only screen for colorectal cancer but also prevent it by getting rid of problematic polyps on the spot.

In other countries, people use stool-based colorectal cancer screening tests at home, rather than make an appointment for a colonoscopy.

Stool-based tests can detect blood in stool, which is helpful since most colorectal cancers ooze blood.

Although colonoscopy can be good as a screening tool and a prevention tool, it has several drawbacks:

First, it is the most expensive way to perform colorectal cancer screening, and few other places in the world use it so routinely because of cost.

Second, colonoscopy is not a benign test and carries a risk of intestine perforation.

Third, the test is inconvenient for people who must prep by skipping solid food and drinking 2-4 liters of liquid laxative a day or two before the test.

In addition, the test makes patients miss a day of work, and someone has to be available to take them home once it’s over.

Researchers from Michigan Medicine suggest an alternative to colonoscopy.

The option is fecal immunochemical test (FIT), which checks for hemoglobin in stool that can be a sign of cancer.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force puts FIT on approximately equal footing with colonoscopy in terms of efficacy.

The disadvantage of FIT is that one has to do it every year, while colonoscopy is recommended every 5-10 years.

Recent studies have shown that both strategies have about the same benefit when properly used.

But in older people who age 50 to 75 and were screened in 2012, 61% had colonoscopies while 10% or fewer used stool-based tests.

More research is needed to see whether colonoscopies is better than the other at reducing deaths from or the frequency of colorectal cancer.

Source: Michigan Medicine.

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