Colon Cancer Screening Options

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is common—even in people who have no history of the disease in their family. In many cases, CRC does not cause bleeding or other symptoms until it is in a late stage that is difficult to cure. For these reasons, prevention is key.

Typically, CRC starts as a small precancerous growth which takes years to become a true cancer. Discovery and removal of precancerous growths, or polyps, often prevent cancer from developing. If you follow your doctor’s advice and have proper screening, your chance of getting colon cancer is likely to decline significantly.

Screening Options

There are several options for CRC screening. None of the options is perfect in all aspects and the various screening tests differ in accuracy, safety, convenience, availability and cost.

MAGIC follows the US National Guidelines for colorectal cancer screening. These guidelines are set by representatives from the American Cancer Society, the US Multi-Society Task Force and the American College of Radiology. The following tests are included in these guidelines and are offered by MAGIC:

Advantages and Disadvantages of CRC Screening Tests

Optical (Traditional) Colonoscopy

Advantages

Disadvantages

· Highly Accurate

· Requires prep

· Polyps removed same day (during test)

· No driving until day after test

· There are known risks

· Requires IV and sedatives/anesthesia

Integrated CT Colonography (Virtual Colonoscopy)

Advantages

Disadvantages

· Highly Accurate

· Requires prep

· Covered by most insurers

· Medicare does not yet always cover

· No known risk

· Findings outside the colon may be discovered, requiring additional tests

· No IV or sedative are required

· No driving restrictions

· Noninvasive

· Average test time 10 min (in scanner)

· Polyps can be removed same day (*)

· Important findings outside the colon may be discovered

*Polyps are found in approximately 15% of patients who are at average risk for CRC.

If polyps are found, patients are offered same day colonoscopy if medically cleared.

STOOL TEST FOR BLOOD

Advantages

Disadvantages

· Can be done at home

· Colon is not visualized

· Low cost

· Test cannot determine whether polyps or cancer exist

· No prep required

STOOL DNA TEST (Cologuard)

Advantages

Disadvantages

· Can be done at home

· Colon is not visualized

· No prep required

· Detects cancer but not precancerous polyps

· Not all insurers cover

· False positives can occur

FLEXIBLE SIGMOIDOSCOPY

Advantages

Disadvantages

· Less aggressive prep

· Entire colon is not visualized

· Can be done without sedation

· Frequently misses growths