we don’t want to get the screening because we start thinking about the whole invasiveness part of it when it doesn’t even have to be that,” Dr. Dalton-Smith shares with NBC.
The idea of getting a colonoscopy and having a tube with a tiny video camera (colonoscope) inserted into the rectum isn’t exactly something that patients jump for joy over.
Dr. Timothy Quinn, a primary care physician in the Jackson, Mississippi, area notes that there is an alternative to getting a colonoscopy, an FDA-approved at-home colon cancer test. Patients can request that their doctor send the test, which requires a stool sample that will be sent to the lab for testing, to their home. The patient will get the results in just a matter of days.
There are other minimally invasive alternatives like Cologuard, Nolan-Smith adds. These alternatives are also effective in early prevention.
“The No. 1 thing is, Chadwick Boseman was a kind of pushing point for some people being aware of the severity of the disease,” she says. “The idea now is to use that awareness and let people know that the key deterrent to getting tested — it being invasive — is not something to fear.”
She adds that medicine has reached a new height. “Many of the cancers that used to kill people, can now be treated — if we catch it early enough.”
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Researchers agree that fecal testing, colonoscopy, and sigmoidoscopy are all effective methods of testing.
The key to lowering the rate of colon cancer in the Black community is preventative testing, so if you are skeptical about getting a colonoscopy consult with your doctor. They may recommend one of the following alternatives:
- Fecal immunochemical testing: Fecal immunochemical testing (FIT) involves analyzing stool samples. This method is FDA approved and involves using antibodies to detect traces of blood in the sample, which may indicate that there is bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract. If you have hemorrhoids or anal fissures or are menstruating, you should notify your doctor to avoid inaccuracies. These tests repeat every 1 to 2 years.
- Fecal occult blood testing: This test also involves analyzing a stool sample, and it is an alternative to FIT. If the test finds any abnormality in the gastrointestinal tract, your doctor may recommend a colonoscopy. These tests take place every 2 years.
- Stool DNA: This test checks for blood and specific DNA in your stool sample. Your doctor may use it alongside FIT. If any abnormality is found, you may need to undergo a colonoscopy.
- Sigmoidoscopy: Although this method is similar to a colonoscopy, it doesn’t check the whole colon. It is also considered invasive and requires preparation, including fasting and taking pills to induce diarrhea or having an enema to clear the colon. However, there are fewer risks to this method than to a colonoscopy.
- CT colonography: CT colonography involves taking detailed images of the colon. Although it does not require sedation, you will need to take medicines to clear your colon in preparation for the procedure. Your colon will be inflated with air to provide a better view. If an abnormality is detected, you will need to get a colonoscopy.
- Double-contrast barium enema: This is a type of X-ray that creates clear images of the colon to help your doctor examine it. This method is great for those who are at risk of complications from getting a colonoscopy. But keep in mind that this method isn’t as successful in detecting small polyps.