Cancer is a killer. Colon cancer is the second most fatal of all cancers – but it does not have to be! Cancer of the colon is a preventable disease that affects both men and women 50 or older. It is easily detected in all stages – even before it becomes cancerous!
Regular annual testing can detect abnormal cells in the colon and prevent cancer from starting. Here are the most common colon cancer tests. Talk with your doctor about these tests.
Fecal Occult Blood Tests (FOBT). This is the most common and easiest test for cancer of the colon. These tests looks for blood in the stool, which may indicate colon cancer. If blood is found, the doctor may order a colonoscopy.
Here's how the test works. Your doctor will give you a testing kit which you will take home. At home you smear a small piece of stool from your bowel movement on a card. Repeat up to three different times – your kit will have specific instructions. The cards are sent to a lab for testing. Some kits include the mailing packs so you can send the test straight from your home.
Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT). This is a home test, like the FOBT. You will get a kit from your doctor and put a small sample of your stool on the card. Repeat up to three times – follow the instructions in the kit. Cards are sent to the lab for testing and the results will be sent to your doctor's office. This test also looks for blood in the stool like the FOBT. If abnormal results are found, a colonoscopy may be ordered.
Sigmoidoscopy. In this test a doctor will use a small lighted tube which allows him to look inside the rectum and lower colon. The doctor is looking for abnormal growths in the colon, such as a polyp, which may indicate colon cancer. If a polyp is found, the doctor will take a small sample of tissue from it and test for cancer. A colonoscopy may be ordered after this if abnormal results are found.
A colonoscopy allows the doctor to look inside the entire colon instead of only the lower third of the colon.
Barium enema. In this test, an x-ray is taken of the rectum and colon after a special barium enema is given. The barium is used to make it easier for doctors to view the x-ray and any abnormalities in it. If an abnormal growth is found, a sample of the tissue is taken and tested. A colonoscopy may be ordered if abnormal results are found in the tissue sample.
Your health care provider is the best person to decide which test is the best one for you. Talk with your doctor about your testing options! The FOBT and FIT tests can be performed every year. Combinations of tests may be ordered by your doctor.
If you are 50 or older, then you should be tested annually. If you have a family history of colon cancer, regardless of your age, you may need to be tested regularly. Certain medical conditions may require that you be regularly tested before the age of 50.
Talk with your doctor about colon cancer testing. A simple test could save your life!