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2 Non-Invasive Colon Cancer Screenings You Should Obtain Between Colonoscopy Exams

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) recommends that all people who have an average risk of colon cancer development obtain a colonoscopy to check for colon cancer signs once every 10 years beginning at the age of 50. However, there are additional colon cancer screening tests that be performed more frequently.

These screenings are not substitutes for regular colonoscopies; rather, they check for signs that signal potential colon cancer development that signal you may need to schedule your next colonoscopy sooner than expected to catch this cancer when it first develops and is most treatable. 

Read on to learn about two colon cancer screenings you should obtain on a regular basis between colonoscopy exams and how these screenings work. 

1. Fecal Blood Test

One simple, non-invasive colon cancer screening that can be performed as often as every year is a fecal blood test. This test determines if there is hidden blood in your stool, which is a common sign of colon cancer. There are two main types of fecal blood tests: Guaiac fecal occult blood tests and fecal immunochemical occult blood tests. Before either test is performed, you must provide your doctor a stool sample.

Then, to perform a guaiac fecal blood test, your physician places a small amount of the stool on a special card that is covered in a substance called guaiac and then adds an additional chemical to the stool. If there is hidden blood in the stool, it will chemically react with both substances and change the color of the card. 

To perform an immunochemical fecal blood test, your physician instead takes the stool sample and adds a special liquid to it. Then, they place the stool solution inside of a special machine that is filled with blood-detecting antibodies. If the machine detects blood in the stool, your physician is alerted to its presence.

2. Stool DNA Test

Another stool test that can be performed on a regular basis to check for early signs of colon cancer is the stool DNA test. When a person has colon cancer or polyps, these abnormal growths shed cells that contain abnormal DNA into the stool. This test uses the latest medical technology to check for this abnormal DNA in your stool that signals you may have colon cancer or precancerous colon polyps. 

Before this test is performed, you will typically be provided a stool DNA test kit. After you receive this kit, you place a stool sample in the container provided and then add a preservative solution to it. Finally, you take the testing kit to the doctor's office or send it by mail to a testing center and await your results. 

If you are age 50 or older and at average risk for colon cancer, you should obtain a standard colonoscopy at least once every 10 years. However, there are additional, less-invasive colon cancer screenings, including these stool tests, that can be performed much more often to catch colon cancer that begins developing between colonoscopy screenings. 

Contact a clinic like Gastro Health to learn more.