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Why colonoscopy offers a better screening choice than stool tests

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No one wants to think about cancer in the colon or rectum. But you can prevent colon cancer from forming by making a commitment to get regular colorectal cancer screenings.
 
The tough question is how to choose the right screening for you.
 
Colonoscopy is the only way to prevent colorectal cancer. During the exam, doctors can remove precancerous polyps, which prevents cancer from forming. The test can also detect cancer early, even before it turns into an advanced stage.
 
Stool-based tests can detect cancer after it's already present in the colon or rectum. That means the disease could be in a later stage when it's more difficult to treat.
 
That's why gastroenterologists consider colonoscopy the gold standard for colon cancer prevention and early detection.

No other cancer screening test is as effective as colonoscopy

Here are six reasons why a colonoscopy is the best screening choice when it comes to prevention of colon cancer.

  1. One test can prevent cancer. Colonoscopy offers the only way to find and remove polyps in one exam.That means your doctor can remove abnormal growths before they turn into cancer.

    At-home stool tests cannot prevent colon cancer.They are considered colon cancer detection tests, which means cancer has already formed. A stool-based test can miss colon cancer in eight out of 100 individuals.

  2. Your entire colon gets checked during a colonoscopy. This visual test looks inside every inch of your colon and rectum. It's the most accurate way to get a close-up view of what's going on in your large intestine.

    Stool-based tests cannot detect most precancerous polyps or growths in the earliest stage when they can be removed easily. The tests can miss precancerous polyps more than 50 percent of the time, according to the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. A positive stool test result may mean colorectal cancer has already formed.

  3. Family or personal medical history makes a difference. Your risk of developing colon cancer increases if you or a family member had colon polyps or cancer. That's why doctors only recommend a colonoscopy if colon cancer or polyps are in your medical history.

    Stool-based tests are not recommended in individuals with personal or family history of colon cancer or polyps.

  4. Survival rates are better with early detection. When colon cancer is found at an early stage, more treatment options are available with a 90 percent chance of survival.

    Stool tests detect cancer already present in the colon. That can mean the disease is in a later stage and more difficult to treat. Colorectal cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. It’s also the third most common cancer diagnosed, excluding skin cancers.

  5. Screening colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years for an average risk person with no personal or family history.
    • A normal colonoscopy – no polyps or cancer – means your next screening colonoscopy is in 10 years.
    • If your doctor finds polyps or growths during the test, you may need a colonoscopy again in three to seven years.

    Doctors recommend repeating the at-home stool test every year, if results are negative.

  6. You may need a colonoscopy after a stool test. A positive result usually means you need a diagnostic colonoscopy to determine if polyps or cancer are present in the colorectal area.

Doctors recommend adults at average risk get their first colonoscopy starting at age 45. Talk with your primary care provider about risk factors and your family history to determine which colorectal cancer screening is right for you.

Gastroenterologists Ross Heil, DO, and Salim Jaffer, MD and Interventional Gastroenterologist Sadat Rashid, MD, at Goshen Physicians Gastroenterology are passionate about cancer prevention through colonoscopy. They encourage every adult to understand the value of this regular screening.

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*Note: Some offices may require a provider referral to schedule an appointment.