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Colon Health

What colon health screenings are available?

The most common types of screening procedures used in for colon cancer:Cancer Survivor

  • Colonoscopy - This test allows physicians to look closely at the inside of the colon for signs of cancer or polyps (small growths that can become cancer).
  • Sigmoidoscopy - This test allows physicians to look closely at the lower parts of the colon for signs of cancer or polyps (small growths that can become cancer).
  • Double contrast barium enema - This is a type of imaging test where a chalky liquid and air are used to outline the inner part of the colon.  This helps identify any abnormal areas on x-rays.
  • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) - This test uses a computed tomography (CT/CAT) scan of the colon. It takes multiple images and combined with special computer programs allows for two and three dimensional images to look for signs of cancer or polyps (small growths that can become cancer).
  • Fecal occult blood test (FDBT) - This test is used to find hidden blood in the feces through chemical reaction due to possible ruptured colorectal cancer or polyps (small growths that can become cancer).
  • Fecal immunochemical test (FIT) - This test is used to find hidden blood in the feces through chemical reaction due to possible ruptured colorectal cancer or polyps (small growths that can become cancer). This test can be easier than the FDBT due to no drug and dietary restrictions)
  • Stool DNA tests - This test looks for certain abnormal sections of DNA from cancer or polyps (small growths that can become cancer). Cells from colorectal cancers or polyps with these mutations are often shed into the stool, where tests may be able to detect them.

When do you need to get colon health screenings?

The American Cancer Society recommends the following guidelines for the early detection of colon cancer. Beginning at the age 50 both men and women at average risk should use on of the screening tests below:

  • Tests that find polyps and cancer:
    • flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years*
    • colonoscopy every 10 years
    • double contrast barium enema every 5 years*
    • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years*
  • Tests that mainly find cancer:
    • fecal occult blood test (FDBT) every year *, **
    • fecal immunochemical test (FIT) every year*, **
    • stool DNA tests (DNA), repeat as recommended by physician*
  • Earlier screening guidelines may be recommended depending on your personal risk factors.

* colonoscopy should be done if test results are positive
** for FOBT or FIT used as a screening test, the take-home multiple sample method should be used. A FOBT or FIT done during a digital rectal exam in the doctor's office is not adequate for screening


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