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Ask The Expert: Colon Cancer Screenings

July 12, 2019

Part 1 of 2 on Colon Cancer – What are the different stool base tests available for colon cancer screening and how often can I have this done?

There are 3 stool-based tests available for colon cancer screening.

  1. Guaiac based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) – stool from three consecutive bowel movements are placed onto three different cards, which will change color if there is blood in the stool. The cards are sent to the laboratory for processing.

  2. Fecal Immunohistochemical test (FIT) – a small sample of stool is placed in a special container, which is sent to the laboratory for processing. This test is more sensitive and can actually measure the level of blood in the stool.

  3. Multi Targeted stool DNA test (Cologuard) – This test looks for DNA mutations and other genetic changes seen in colon cancer that is shed into the stool. Your doctor needs to give you a prescription and the kit can be sent to your home via mail.

These tests do not require bowel preparation or anesthesia and can be done at home. They can detect colon cancer about 70% of the time if positive, but they are not good at finding small polyps. This is compared to colonoscopy, which can detect cancer 95% of the time and is good at finding and removing small polyps.

The American Cancer Society recommends a person with average risk of colorectal cancer start screening at age 45 through the age of 75, if in good health. If you are between 76 through 85 years old, please talk to your provider whether you need to be screened.

It is recommended to do FIT or gFOBT every year. The Multitargeted DNA test can be done every 3 years. Colonoscopy should be done every 10 years. Computed tomography (CT) colonography and flexible sigmoidoscopy are done every 5 years.

- Waina Cheng MD, Medical Director of Oncology at Atlantic Health System’s Newton Medical Center

Source: New Jersey Herald