Most men and women accept that, once they hit a certain age, it’s time to start getting annual cancer screenings. For men, the most common annual screening they’re required to undergo is for colorectal cancer. As the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States, colorectal cancer is an established serious health issue. Still, going in for colonoscopies isn’t exactly the most enjoyable experience, nor one that we can help wanting to avoid.
Luckily, it is actually possible to perform a self-administered stool test for colon cancer at home. These self-tests are noninvasive, nonsurgical options that deliver quick and accurate results. Here are the three stool tests for colon cancer that you can take at home.
A self-administered stool test for colon cancer is performed at home and does not need to be administered by a physician or nurse. However, often times a colorectal specialist needs to order the test. Once the test is ordered, it is typically shipped to your home. There are a few different types of at home stool tests for colon cancer. All of the tests collect stool and are performed in similar ways.
Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT): A warning sign for colorectal cancer is trace amounts of blood in the stool. These tiny amounts are often invisible to the naked eye, but this test will detect them.
Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT): This test is similar to the FOBT in that it is interested in detecting blood. However, this test uses antibodies directed at hemoglobin as a method of detecting blood.
Stool DNA Test: This option looks for blood in the stool as well as for DNA biomarkers that have been correlated with a higher risk for cancer.
Every stool test for colon cancer will have different instructions on how to use them, but most at-home stool tests are collected in the same way. Be sure to follow all of the directions that are provided along with the test.
Some tests will require a diet change, laxatives, or an enema. It is important to ask your doctor and read the packaging on the at-home test to know exactly what to do. Once you have received your testing kit in the mail, you will need to have a bowel movement and collect your sample.
Some tests will require only a swab, while others may need a larger sample for which they typically provide sealed containers and preservatives in order to maintain standards of hygiene and safety. Typically, you will then send this sample to a lab with prepaid postage provided by the testing company, and the lab will inform you and your physician of your results.
If your test comes back positive for signs of colon cancer, then your doctor will most likely recommend another testing procedure to verify the results which will have to be at a clinic. Here are a few of the tests that your doctor may require.
Colonoscopy: This is the test your doctor is most likely to recommend. In this test, a flexible lighted tube with a camera attached to it is used to inspect the colon, rectum, and sometimes further parts of the GI tract. If polyps are found, then they can usually be removed during the procedure.
Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: Similar to the colonoscopy except it can only view the lower parts of the colon. If polyps are detected, then your physician may order a colonoscopy to be performed.
CT Colonography: Sometimes called a virtual colonoscopy, this noninvasive test uses computer programming software and x-ray technology to view cross-sectional images of the colon from outside of the body. If polyps or abnormalities are detected, then a follow-up colonoscopy is typically recommended.
Colorectal surgery is often recommended to patients with colon cancer. Screening, diagnosis, surgery, or radiation therapy can all be scary procedures for patients, but because colorectal cancer is highly treatable these practices are worth it. If you are interested in obtaining an at-home stool test for colon cancer, book an appointment to speak to a colorectal specialist and find out how to get a self-test or a screening.