colorectal cancer screening

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Fortunately, colorectal cancer is preventable with lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet and regular exercise, and staying up to date on cancer screenings.

The ACS recommends adults age 45 and older get regular colorectal cancer screenings, which fall under two main types:

  • Visual tests, such as colonoscopies
  • Stool-based tests
Kathleen Martin, MD

Kathleen Martin, MD, gastroenterologist at CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group – Gastroenterology, recommends a colonoscopy for most of her patients.

“A colonoscopy provides the best visualization for the provider,” said Dr. Martin, who adds that a doctor uses a miniature scope to examine the colon from within. “It allows us to detect and remove precancerous lesions, called polyps, so we can both prevent and diagnose cancer.”

While she most often recommends a colonoscopy, Dr. Martin said that the best choice of screening varies from patient to patient. For patients who are anxious about going under anesthesia, Dr. Martin recommends a CT colonography, also called a virtual colonoscopy.

“It’s a good alternative to a traditional colonoscopy,” Dr. Martin said. “We also use it for people who have scar tissue that may prevent passage of the scope.”

A stool-based test is another option for patients, offering its own benefits in identifying colorectal cancer.

“Stool-based tests are for patients who are on certain medications or have compromised pulmonary function, making ti difficult to perform a colonoscopy,” Dr. Martin said. “The best one is the multitargeted stool DNA test. It checks for secretions form tumors and dangerous polyps.”

Whichever test you choose, both Dr. Martin and the ACS agree that regular screenings are crucial to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.

Which test is best?

Learn more about the different types of colorectal cancer screenings as described by the American Cancer Society (ACS), and decide which option is best for you.

  • Colonoscopy: a provider uses a scope – a tube with a small camera – to look for and remove precancerous polyps and cancer. This test requires general anesthesia and must be done every 10 years.
  • CT Colonography: Also called a virtual colonoscopy, this uses an X-ray machine to look for polyps and cancer. This test must be performed every five years.
  • Fecal Immunochemical Test: Done once a year, this test requires you to take a stool sample using an at-home kit your provider gives you. You mail your sample to a lab where it is checked for blood in the stool.
  • Multitarget Stool DNA Test: This test is done every three years. You collect a stool sample using a kit your provider sends to you. The sample is mailed to a lab and tested for blood, as well as abnormal DNA form polyps or cancer.

Find out which colorectal cancer screening is right for you. To schedule a screening, call 855.345.9663 or learn more about Colon Cancer Screenings and Prevention.

This article was originally published in the Winter 2019 edition of Spirit of Health magazine. Subscribe to Spirit of Health magazine to read more stories like this one.