Screening options for preventing colorectal cancer

Mar 1, 2022


When was the last time you had a screening for colon cancer? There are several different cancer screening options. The one that’s right for you depends on multiple factors, including your cancer risk, overall health and personal preferences.

Colorectal cancer screenings help with early detection. Often, these tests detect cancer before you even have symptoms. When your provider finds cancer early, it’s much easier to treat.

The gold standard: colonoscopy

With a colonoscopy, your gastroenterologist uses a scope to examine your entire colon and rectum. One of the major advantages of a colonoscopy is that if your provider finds any polyps (growths), they can remove them right then and there.

A traditional colonoscopy is often considered the gold standard in colorectal cancer screening. If you have a higher risk of colon cancer, your provider will likely recommend a colonoscopy. If you have average risk and your results are normal, you typically only need a colonoscopy every 10 years.

Stool tests

Noninvasive colorectal cancer screening options include stool tests. These tests involve taking a stool sample at home and sending it to a lab to look for signs of cancer or precancer. Options include:

  • Cologuard® looks for specific gene changes that could be a sign of precancerous growths. It may also look for blood in your stool, which can be a sign of colorectal cancer. Best practice is to complete this test every three years.
  • Fecal immunochemical tests (FIT) look for blood in your stool. Your healthcare provider gives you a take-home test to collect your stool sample. If you choose to have a FIT, you’ll need to repeat it yearly.

Stool tests are only appropriate screening options for people who have a low to average risk of colorectal cancer. With all stool tests, if your results come back positive, you’ll need a colonoscopy.

Which test is right for me?

Choosing a colorectal cancer screening option should be a decision you make along with your provider. No matter which test you choose, it’s important to get a regular colon cancer screening. To learn more about colorectal cancer prevention or to schedule a screening, find an Adventist Health provider near you.