SAN DIEGO, May 26, 2015 — There are over 1 million colon cancer survivors alive in the United States today, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Affecting both men and women, colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths.
Early detection of colon cancer is critical to ensure immediate treatment and an increased rate of survival.
Methods of testing and detecting colon cancer are sensitive topics of discussion for many, causing embarrassment, emotional discomfort and even denial.
A lack of adequate information regarding methods of early detection is another barrier that prevents people from taking advantage of the currently available colon cancer tests.
There are a variety of well-known screening options, and the National Institutes on Health provides the following helpful information:
- FOBT is a non-invasive fecal blood study that can detect blood in the stool. It is a recommended test every one or two years for those age 50 to 80. It is estimated that this test reduces the number of colon cancer deaths by 15 to 33 percent.
- Sigmoidoscopy examines the rectum and sigmoid colons using an invasive, flexible lighted tube. It is recommended as a screening every five years for those age 50 and over. It is estimated that this test reduces the rate of colon cancer deaths by 60 to 70 percent. Minimal colon cleansing preparation is required, and sedation is not likely necessary.
- Colonoscopy, considered by some as the gold standard for early detection, involves the use of an invasive, flexible lighted tube that examines the entire colon. Tissue samples of anything potentially suspicious might be taken, and polyps and/or abnormal growths would be removed. It is estimated that this test reduces the rate of colon cancer deaths by 60 to 70 percent. Colon cleansing preparation is required, as is sedation.
- Virtual colonoscopy uses a CT scanner to take a series of non-invasive pictures of the colon and rectum. The accuracy rate of this test is akin to that of a standard colonoscopy, though the actual rate of the reduction of colon cancer deaths is unknown, which could possibly be due to insufficient research data; the medical community prefers the standard colonoscopy for testing. Colon cleansing preparation is required.
- Double-contrast barium enema provides X-rays of the colon and rectum following the medical administration of a barium enema. This option might be ideal for those who cannot undergo a standard colonoscopy.
There is another, newer, non-invasive option available for colon cancer screening called the fecal immunological test, or FIT, which detects human blood in the stool coming from the lower intestines.
FIT can also detect potential problems, sometimes before they happen, whether the problems are not related to colon cancer, or signs that colon cancer is likely to develop.
Another of the benefits of this test is that no sedation or colon cleansing preparation is required.
A FIT kit is is a do-it-yourself test, provided by a health care professional, with an at-home collection process, accompanied by instructions. Materials required for the self-collection process are provided with the kit.
Once the FIT kit procedures are fully completed, all specimens collected are sent to a testing site in a secure envelope.
All findings are immediately reported, and, if there is anything suspicious, an appropriate health care professional will likely recommend that either another type of test be performed or that a form of treatment commence.
With absolutely no risks involved and the ability to self-test in the comfort of home without colon cleansing or sedation, FIT is a potentially positive solution for those who are uncomfortable with the other available colon health screening options.
“FITs caught more than three quarters of colon tumors, and were very good at ruling out cancers,” according to Amy Norton, health news reporter, as published in WebMD.
A stool test such as FIT is recommended yearly and has “very good potential as a screening tool,” says Dr. Elizabeth Liles, with the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore.
Major risk factors for developing colon cancer include age, family history, lifestyle, weight, diet, exercise and overall health choices, such as smoking or not smoking.
With the risk factor for developing colon cancer estimated as one out of every 20 persons, it is a highly critical issue for anyone aged 50 and over to determine what method of colon cancer screening is most personally comfortable and effective–then to ensure that it is conducted routinely.
The life it could save just might be your own.
Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!
Laurie Edwards-Tate, MS, is a health care provider of over 30 years. As a featured “Communities Digital News” columnist, LifeCycles with Laurie Edwards-Tate emphasizes healthy aging and maintaining independence, while delighting and informing its readers. Laurie is a recognized expert in home and community-based, long-term care services, and is also an educator.
In addition to writing for “Communities Digital News,” Laurie is the President and CEO of her firm, At Your Home Familycare, which serves persons of all ages who are disabled and infirm with a variety of non-medical, in-home care and concierge services.
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