According to the CDC, colorectal cancer is the second deadliest form of cancer, affecting both men and women. That’s the bad news, but the good news is there are simple tests that make catching and curing colorectal cancer easier, with the main key to the tests being proactivity.
What Are My Diagnostic Options?
There are two primary diagnostics that doctors use in the fight against colorectal cancers. The two tests, colonoscopies and Fecal Immunochemical Tests (FIT), actually work hand in hand with each other, and when used correctly, can catch many cases of colorectal cancer, even in the early stages.
Most people know about colonoscopies, although they may not fully understand the process. Even though colonoscopies get a bad rap for being uncomfortable, they are a fairly quick and simple diagnostic test and are the number one tool in fighting colorectal cancer. Patients at a normal risk level should receive them beginning at age 50, with follow ups every 10 years. Those at higher risk should consult their healthcare providers to determine the best course of treatment.
The second type of test, FIT, is a little less well known, it is done during your annual wellness exam and you may have heard of an at home version mentioned on commercials. It is a simple stool test that evaluates for blood in the stool. The simplicity can be attractive to some people who are squeamish about having a colonoscopy. These are recommended annually for normal risk patients between ages 50 and 75.
How Should The Two Tests Be Used Together?
FITs and colonoscopies are best used together. A recent study published in the Journal of American Medical Association tracked over 70,000 patients aged 59-70 after having received a positive fecal blood test. Once the positive test was evaluated, the patients were advised to have a colonoscopy. 74% of study participants heeded that advice and did so quickly – within 3 months. The remaining patients did not respond as quickly, waiting 10 months or more before getting tested. Those who waited 10 months were found to have double the risk of colon cancer, with the risk of advanced malignancy nearly doubled. The participants who waited over a year had their risk tripled.
Dr Sameer Islam is trained in evaluating the risk and presence of colorectal cancer. If you are approaching age 50, or if you are younger but have a family history or other risks of colorectal cancer, it’s important to act now and contact Dr. Islam for an appointment to discuss your best screening options. The most important thing to remember is that time really does matter – be proactive and make sure to lower your risk of deadly colorectal cancer.