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Are you a Medicare member? Visit rhodeahead.com/medicare.

Are you a Medicare member? Visit rhodeahead.com/medicare.

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 haven’t had yours yet, it’s important to know that you have choices for getting tested. Getting a routine, preventive screening— including alternative at-home tests—may be covered at no cost to you. (For complete benefit information, please contact Customer Service.)

Colonoscopy: The “gold standard”

Colonoscopy is the most common type of screening for colon cancer, and is generally recommended only once every 10 years for adults age 50 or older. (Depending on your family and medical histories, your doctor might recommend getting one more often.) A colonoscopy is 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 for patients, and carries a higher risk than some other tests. There are many other less invasive and well researched options available, including several simple take-home tests. The best test for you is the one that you actually get done. Talk with your doctor at your next visit about your choices and their recommendations for which screening you should have, and how often.

Colon cancer facts

1/3
Of adults ages 50 to 75 haven’t received regular screenings

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