When it comes to colon cancer, reasons for low screening rates are varied and multi-layered. In addition to lack of education, “fear of the procedure and the fear of what might be found, I think those are some of the major obstacles that we encounter in terms of getting people to do this,” said Dr. Strick Woods, a Connecticut based gastrointerologist.
The gold standard for screening is still the colonoscopy – a procedure where a thin tube with a small camera is inserted through the anus and into the rectum and colon. True, this doesn’t sound like something most would want to volunteer for, but Dr. Woods reports that screening has reduced colorectal cancer mortality by almost 60 percent.
“The screening is to identify patients at average risk and start screening before they have any symptoms.”
Alternative to the colonoscopy
But, what if it were easier to be screened for colon cancer, would more people do it? That’s the hope behind a new at-home screening kit, Cologuard. Cologuard is a stool test and is the only one that tests for DNA markers and blood.
“Cancer of the colon begins as a small growth, so if you can identify that growth early and remove it, and then thereafter determine what the screening sequence should be for that individual, the impact upon their longevity is tremendous,” says Dr. Woods.
With the Cologuard kit – which must be ordered by a person’s doctor – a stool sample can be collected at home, overnighted to a lab for testing, with the results going back to the ordering doctor. “If it’s a positive test, they will then warrant a colonoscopy. A negative test, they then have the option to follow up with another Cologuard test in the ensuing years.”