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At-Home Colon Screenings – Are They Right for You?

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At home colon screening tests have become more widely available. While a colonoscopy is still the most reliable way of preventing and detecting colorectal disease, an at-home screening test is an option for those who are not experiencing any symptoms and are considered a low risk for colon disease. While they’re not as precise and don’t allow for immediate treatment, they are better than skipping a screening altogether.

A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine has determined that at-home fecal immunochemical tests (FITs) are effective for people at average risk for colorectal cancer. A FIT detects blood in the stool that can be a red flag for several conditions, including hemorrhoids, ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD, Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis), and colon and rectal cancer.

“There are some very good home screening tests out now that can detect DNA in the stool, suggestive of a cancer” explains Steven A. Fassler, MD, a surgeon with Colon and Rectal Associates, “But while the tests are reliable, the gold standard is still the colonoscopy. Additionally if the DNA is positive you will need to follow up with a colonoscopy”

What to expect

The tests must be ordered by your doctor, who will also receive the results.  You collect a small amount of fecal matter with a swab and mail it to a lab, where it will be analyzed for blood (a common indicator of colon cancer or precancerous polyps) as well as for any DNA changes in the cells. Results are usually sent out within two weeks.  If something is detected by the test your doctor will contact you or if you have question about the results, make a follow-up appointment with your doctor.  In many cases insurance will cover most, if not all, of the cost of an at-home test for those who meet the age requirement. Check with your individual insurance plan.

Is it right for you?

Ask your physician, based on other factors, family history, genetics or symptoms, they will be able to tell you if an at-home screening is appropriate for you. “The best defense against colon cancer is to get regular screenings,” said Dr. Fassler, “With diagnostic tools like in-home screening and regular colonoscopies, we can catch cancer early, when it is easier to treat.” While there’s nothing that definitively prevents colon cancer, a healthy lifestyle including exercise and a diet with limited red meat and processed foods, as well as regular screenings, can be helpful in reducing your risk.

Ready to get scanned? Talk to your primary care physician to see if you are a candidate for in-home screening or if you need a referral for a colon and rectal surgeon or a gastroenterologist call the Redeemer Health information and referral line at 800-818-4747 .