According to the World Health Organization (WHO), colon cancer is the third most common cancer globally and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths.
One of the best ways to prevent colon cancer-related deaths is by undergoing regular screening tests. Colonoscopy is one of the most common screening tests, but many individuals avoid it due to the invasive nature of the procedure. Fortunately, there are other non-invasive colon cancer screening tests available, including stool-based tests.
Let’s explore colon cancer, screening tests for colon cancer, and the role of stool-based screening tests in detecting colon cancer early.
Colon Cancer: A Brief Overview
Colon cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is atype of cancer that begins in the colon or rectum. As one of the most common forms of cancer worldwide, it affects millions of people each year.
While many cases of colon cancer may not present any symptoms in the early stages, there are common signs and symptoms that individuals should be aware of. These symptoms include:
- Persistent changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation
- Blood in the stool or rectal bleeding
- Abdominal discomfort, including cramps, gas, or pain.
- Unexplained, sudden weight loss
- Fatigue or weakness
- Weakness or tiredness
- Anemia (low red blood cell count)
It is important to note that these symptoms can also be caused by other digestive conditions, so it is essential to consult a GI specialist for an accurate diagnosis.
Colon Cancer Screening Types
Screening plays a vital role in the prevention and early detection of colon cancer. There are various types of colon cancer screening tests available, ranging from invasive to non-invasive methods.
The choice of screening test depends on factors such as your age, risk factors, and personal preferences.
These tests involve using a flexible tube called a scope to examine the colon and rectum for abnormalities. These tests include colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy.
While these tests effectively detect cancerous and precancerous polyps, they require bowel preparation.
Non-invasive tests are an alternative option for individuals who may be reluctant to undergo invasive procedures. These tests aim to detect colon cancer by analyzing stool samples for the presence of abnormal cells or blood. Stool-based screening tests offer convenience, simplicity, and high accuracy.
Stool-based screening tests have gained popularity due to their non-invasive nature and ease of use. These tests analyze stool samples for the presence of abnormal cells or blood, which may indicate the presence of colon cancer or precancerous lesions.
There are three main types of stool-based screening tests: guaiac-based fecal occult blood tests (FOBT), fecal immunochemical tests (FIT), and stool DNA tests.
Guaiac-based Fecal occult blood tests (gFOBT)
The gFOBT is a simple and cost-effective screening method that detects hidden blood in the stool using a chemical called guaiac. This test can help identify bleeding from both cancerous and non-cancerous sources.
The test is done once a year and involves collecting stool samples at home and sending them to a laboratory for analysis. If blood is detected, further diagnostic tests, such as colonoscopy, may be recommended.
Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT)
This test involves the use of antibodies to detect blood in the stool. FIT is done once a year.
Stool DNA tests
Stool DNA tests, also known as FIT-DNA tests, are more advanced screening methods that not only detect blood in the stool but also analyze DNA biomarkers associated with colon cancer. These tests can identify genetic mutations and abnormalities that may indicate the presence of cancer or precancerous polyps.
This test is done once every three years to identify cancerous and precancerous polyps.
Prosand Cons of Stool-Based Screening Tests
Stool-based screening tests offer several benefits compared to invasive procedures. These benefits include:
- Non-invasiveness: Stool-based tests eliminate the need for invasive procedures like colonoscopy, making them more comfortable and convenient for individuals.
- Accessibility: Stool-based tests can be performed at home, removing the need for hospital visits or specialized medical facilities.
- Cost-effectiveness: Stool-based tests are generally more affordable than invasive procedures, making them accessible to a wider population.
- Safety: Stool-based tests carry minimal risks and complications compared to invasive procedures.
- Accessibility: Stool-based screening is more accessible to a wider range of individuals, including those who may have contraindications to colonoscopy.
The stool-based tests for colon cancer screening also have some cons, which are as follows:
- Tests like FOBT and FIT may fail to collect some polyps and cancers.
- Patients may need to avoid taking certain foods and medications before the test.
- The FOBT and FIT test may produce false-positive results.
- If the blood is detected in the test, an additional test may be needed.
Who Should Get a Stool-Based Colon Cancer Screening Test?
Stool-based tests are recommended for people who are at average risk of developing colon cancer, which includes those who have no personal or family history of the disease and are between the ages of 50 and 75.
People who are at high risk of colon cancer, such as those with a personal or family history of the disease or those with certain medical conditions, may need to undergo more frequent or more invasive screenings, such as colonoscopy.
Colon Test Near Me in California
Stool-based screening tests play a vital role in the early detection of colon cancer. They are non-invasive, easy to use, and highly effective in detecting cancer and precancerous polyps.
If you are due for colon cancer screening, consider visiting our GI specialist to determine the right type of colon test for you. We understand the importance of accurate colon cancer screening to diagnose and treat GI issues and offer a comprehensive range of colon cancer screening tests, including colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, stool testing, and others.
Based on the results of your colon cancer screenings, our experts create a personalized treatment plan tailored to your unique condition and needs.
If you would like to set up a one-on-one consultation with one of our highly qualified and skilled GI experts for colon testing, call us today at one of our locations near you or fill out our request for an appointment form online.