In our ultra-convenient, order-from-home culture, we can breeze through our to-do lists with a couple of clicks. Everything from grocery shopping to checking out library books to planning a wedding can be done from the comfort of your own home. This is now true for one of our least favorite tasks: colon cancer screening.
It used to be the only way to test for colon cancer was to have a colonoscopy at a medical center. While colonoscopy is still used for diagnostic purposes and for screening in some cases, we now recommend some patients use a FIT, or fecal immunochemical test, kit, a test you can get in the mail and do in the privacy of your own home.
Why screen for colon cancer?
Colorectal cancer is the second-highest cause of cancer-related deaths. More than 1,000 people died of colorectal cancer in Washington state in the last reporting year. Yet 1 in 3 people over 50 aren’t up to date with colorectal cancer screenings. Screening can identify polyps early before they become cancerous, allowing us to treat them before they create significant health risks.
Convenient colon cancer screening at home
The FIT kit lowers the hassle factor for getting screened. There’s no fasting or prep. Using a swab stick attached to a test tube lid, you’ll get a tiny sample of your stool, then screw the lid into the test tube. Place it in the pre-paid envelope to the lab and drop it in the mail. The lab checks your sample for trace amounts of blood that could signal the presence of polyps. Patients whose FIT screenings show these traces will be notified to follow up with a diagnostic colonoscopy.
It’s a few minutes spent in your bathroom instead of hours at a medical center. There are few life-saving measures that are this easy. Wearing a life jacket or helmet? Fastening your seatbelt? Getting tested for colon cancer is just as important.
When to start
We recommend FIT kit testing every year for most patients 50 and older. Talk to your care provider to see if you can do a FIT kit instead of a colonoscopy.
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