This simple test could end up saving your life
If you knew you could prevent a certain type of cancer with a single, simple test, would you do it?
For the vast majority of us, the answer to this question would be an overwhelming yes. But when it comes to colorectal cancer––the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and second leading cause of death from cancer in the United States––this truth can fall on deaf ears.
In fact, most colorectal cancers can be prevented or treated if they are detected by screening tests. But only 60 percent of Americans are up-to-date with their screening, says John M. Inadomi, M.D., head of the Division of Gastroenterology at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
“We understand that people don’t get screened because they’re embarrassed or fearful of the test, or think they don’t have the time,” he says. “Have an open discussion with your doctor about why this is so important to your health.” Here’s what you should know.
When Should I Get Screened?
If you’re between ages 50 and 75, it’s important to schedule a screening as soon as possible. But if you’re under 50 and have a family history of colorectal cancer or have inflammatory bowel disease, you should probably look into the testing sooner rather than later.
“There’s strong evidence that these tests can reduce cancer deaths,” Dr. Inadomi says. “Neither is better than the other so the ‘best’ test is the one you choose to get done.”
If you’re older than 75, be sure to check with your doctor to determine if a colorectal cancer screening is right for you.
Is the Screening Painful?
Colorectal cancer screenings are safe and easy. While there are multiple types, you’ll likely hear about these two screenings from your doctor the most frequently:
1. FIT (fecal immunochemical test):
- What it is:An at-home test that doesn’t require a doctor’s procedure or any special preparations.
- How it’s done:A small stool sample is collected by the patient and sent via mail to a lab, where it is tested for small amounts of blood. This test can be an alternative to a colonoscopy, assuming the patient doesn’t have other risk factors.
- What it is:A medical procedure performed every 10 years, or as recommended by a doctor.
- How it’s done:The doctor examines the rectum and colon with a flexible, lighted tube while the patient is sedated. It’s helpful in removing polyps on the spot and diagnosing other problems.
Schedule Your Screening ASAP
Check with your health care plan to see if this critical screening is covered, or partially covered.