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Colon Cancer Q&A: Colonoscopy vs. At-home Testing

When it comes to colon cancer screening, determining which exam is the best option can be a tough decision. There are a variety of colon cancer exams available today. Patients often ask about two of the most common screenings: a colonoscopy and at-home testing kits.

Both exams are used to detect colorectal cancer. However, they differ in how they’re performed, how often they need to be done, and how well they can detect colorectal cancer.

Here’s a quick Q&A on colonoscopy and at-home colon cancer testing kits:

Q: What is a colonoscopy?

A: A colonoscopy exam is considered the “gold standard” in colorectal screening. During a colonoscopy, a flexible camera is inserted through the rectum into the colon to search for signs of cancer. It’s a highly-effective screening for helping cancer specialists detect colon cancer early when it’s often smaller and easier to treat.

Q: How do at-home testing kits work?

A: At-home colon cancer testing is relatively new. This method requires you to send in a stool sample to be analyzed in a lab test called fecal immunochemical testing (FIT), which looks for blood in the stool sample and tests it for cancer. Blood in the stool can be a sign of pre-cancerous polyps.

Q: What are the benefits of a colonoscopy?

A: Doctors can usually perform a colonoscopy in the office and can even remove pre-cancerous polyps they discover during the screening. However, a colonoscopy requires patients to clear their colon before the exam, usually using a liquid diet and gentle laxative a day or so before the screening.

Q: Are at-home tests effective?

A: Home-based colon cancer tests are convenient and simple to complete. They can detect cancer; however, their rate and accuracy of cancer detection vary from other screening exams like a colonoscopy.

As with any medical exam, it’s important to speak with your doctor to consider your options and determine which one is right for you.

Get the facts.
To learn about colon cancer and the colorectal screenings available at Tanner, visit tanner.org/cancer-care.

Is it time for your colonoscopy?

Most people begin receiving a regular colonoscopy at age 50. Speak with your doctor to see if it’s time for your colonoscopy. You may qualify for our direct-access colonoscopy, which allows you to fast-track your screening by scheduling your colonoscopy without the need for a pre-procedure doctor’s office visit. To schedule an appointment, call 1-833-262-6793.

Cancer Care, Tanner Medical Group

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