During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many essential preventive health screenings were delayed, including colon cancer screening. This year let’s get back on track!
Stool-based screening tests look at the stool (feces) for possible signs of colorectal cancer or polyps. Some tests look for small amounts of blood in the stool because blood vessels in larger colorectal polyps or cancer are often fragile and are easily damaged by the passage of stool. The damaged vessels bleed into the colon or rectum, but there isn’t enough blood to be seen. Other tests look for abnormal sections of DNA from cancer or polyp cells in the stool. The advantages of stool testing are that they are done at home, and they are less invasive. At-home stool kits come with instructions and supplies needed to collect the sample correctly. Some disadvantages to keep in mind: they need to be done more often (annually), they can miss many polyps and some cancers and can have false-positive rates. If your results are positive (abnormal) your physician will recommend a colonoscopy.
Colonoscopies are recommended for anyone who is at high risk for colon cancer due to a family history or who have an abnormal result from a stool-based test. A colonoscopy is also recommended for anyone who is experiencing any of the following symptoms: blood in bowel movements, change in bowel habits, abdominal pain, weight loss or unexplained anemia.