If you're at a high risk of developing colon cancer, you should undergo regular colon cancer screening. Having a family history of colon cancer, drinking an excessive amount of alcohol and eating a diet that's low in fiber all increase your risk of developing it, and colon cancer is very deadly if it's not caught early. Detecting colon cancer early boosts your chances of survival by enabling the cancerous polyps in your colon to be removed before the cancer has a chance to spread. The two most common forms of colon cancer testing are stool tests and colonoscopies. To learn more about how they work and which one is the best tool for detecting colon cancer, read on.
Stool tests are a very convenient form of colon cancer screening that won't require you to take time off of work or see a doctor. There are two forms of stool testing commonly used to detect colon cancer. One is the fecal immunochemical test, which detects antibodies that are found in your blood. Colon cancer polyps often bleed, and that blood ends up in your stool — detecting the presence of blood in your stool can be a sign that you have colon cancer.
The other common stool test is the DNA stool test. The lining of your colon sheds every single day and ends up in your stool. The DNA test checks the DNA of your colon lining can check changes in your DNA that may be a sign that you have colon cancer.
Both forms of stool testing can be done at home — you collect a sample of your stool and send it to a laboratory. This makes them a very quick and easy way to check for signs of colon cancer.
A colonoscopy is a medical procedure that's able to directly inspect your colon using a camera. During the procedure, a gastroenterologist will insert a camera into your colon and then slowly retract it while spinning it around to inspect the entire lining of your colon. Before the test, you'll be required to avoid solid food and take laxatives so that you're able to empty your entire colon — this enables the doctor to see your whole colon without any stool obstructing their view.
Colonoscopies are fairly quick, and you'll be sedated during the procedure so that you won't feel any discomfort. If any polyps are found in your colon during the procedure, the gastroenterologist can use a device attached to the end of the camera in order to remove them.
Which Test Is Better?
Ultimately, colonoscopies are more accurate than stool tests, and a colonoscopy has the additional benefit of being able to remove any polyps that are found during the course of the procedure. In addition to that, you'll also need to have a colonoscopy if you take a stool test and it comes back positive for potential colon cancer — this allows the diagnosis to be confirmed and also allows your doctor to remove any polyps they see.
However, stool testing remains useful despite the fact that colonoscopies are more accurate — they're very convenient and can be done at home. If you're at a high risk of developing colon cancer, it's a good idea to regularly use stool tests in order to boost your chance of catching it early.
Overall, regular colon cancer testing is important for people with risk factors for developing colon cancer — if you can detect colon cancer early, the cancerous polyps can be removed by performing a colonoscopy before they've had a chance to spread. If you have a family history of colon cancer, if you smoke or if you drink a substantial amount of alcohol, make sure you're undergoing regular colon cancer testing from places like Gastro Health in order to limit your risk.