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Is It Time for Your Screening?

It’s safe to say that no one looks forward to getting screened for colon cancer. But many people dread the idea so much that they avoid getting tested altogether. That puts them at risk, because about half of all colon cancers can be prevented with regular screening.

If you’re between ages 50 and 75, BCBSRI covers recommended colon cancer screenings at 100% when you see a provider in your plan’s network. This includes colonoscopies as well as some take-home tests.

Colonoscopy: The “gold standard”

The most common type of screening for colon cancer, a colonoscopy is generally recommended only once every 10 years for adults ages 50 to 75.

It’s the “gold standard” for several reasons:

  • It gives a complete view of the colon and rectum.
  • It can detect colon cancer and precancerous changes that might otherwise develop unnoticed.
  • If polyps (noncancerous growths that can cause colon cancer) are present, they can be biopsied and removed during the procedure.

While a colonoscopy is the preferred method*, it can be inconvenient and carries a higher risk for complications than some other tests. Many other less invasive and well-researched options are available, including simple take-home tests. Talk with your doctor at your next visit about which test may be best for you.

Colon cancer facts

0
symptoms experienced by many people in early stages

2nd
Leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S.
 

Colon cancer screening choices

Colon cancer screening

 

Advantages

Disadvantages

Colonoscopy

This is a direct exam of the colon and rectum, and polyps are removed if present. If you have an abnormal result from other colon cancer screenings, you’ll need a colonoscopy.

  • Can usually view entire colon and rectum
  • Can biopsy and remove polyps
  • Done every 10 years
  • Higher risk than other tests
  • Need to have an empty bowel (usually by drinking and/or taking laxatives)

Flexible sigmoidoscopy

A slender tube is inserted through the rectum into the colon. This gives the doctor a visual exam of the rectum and lower part of the colon.

  • Fairly quick
  • Sedation (medication to help you relax and block pain) usually not used
  • Does not require a specialist
  • Should be done every 5 years
  • Doesn’t view upper part of colon
  • Can’t see or remove all polyps
  • Need to have an empty bowel (usually by drinking and/or taking laxatives)
  • Colonoscopy needed if test results are abnormal

CT Colonography

This screening gives a detailed 2-D or 3-D view of the colon and rectum.

  • Fairly quick and safe
  • Can usually view entire colon and rectum
  • No sedation needed
  • Should be done every 5 years
  • Still fairly new test
  • Can’t remove polyps during test
  • Need to have an empty bowel
  • Colonoscopy needed if test results are abnormal

Stool tests

 

Advantages

Disadvantages

Guaiac-based Fecal Occult Blood Test/Fecal Immunochemical Test

This test can detect blood in stool caused by tumors or polyps. Your healthcare provider gives you a kit to take home.

  • No direct risk to the colon/rectum
  • Bowel doesn’t need to be empty (no laxatives needed)
  • Sampling done at home
  • May miss some polyps/cancers
  • Done every year
  • Colonoscopy needed if test results are abnormal

Stool DNA Test

This test looks for certain DNA changes from cancer or polyp cells. Healthcare provider has kit sent to patient.

  • No direct risk to the colon/rectum
  • Bowel doesn’t need to be empty
  • Sampling done at home
  • May miss some polyps/cancers
  • Colonoscopy needed if test results are abnormal

 

Help us reach 80% by 2018!

BCBSRI supports the American Cancer Society and the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCRT) in reaching an 80% screening rate for colorectal cancer by 2018. Learn more about this initiative on NCCRT’s website. Working together with our members and doctors, we want to get that number as high as possible!

*Source: American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy
Note: All statistics are from the American Cancer Society.