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June 24, 2016

Alternatives to Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy is by far the gold standard in colon and colorectal cancer screening. Colonoscopy with polyp removal decreases mortality from colon cancer by roughly 53 percent. Colonoscopies prevent the development of cancer by removal of polyps that could become cancerous. It is the only screening that actually prevents the disease it is attempting to detect.

In addition, it is the most accurate test to help prevent colon cancer, but the discomfort of the all-day laxative prep and the sedation — not to mention the actual procedure — cause millions to forgo the test every year. If you're one of the estimated 23 million American adults who have not been screened, there are some easier, albeit less accurate, alternatives.

Virtual colonoscopy: Instead of using a scope in the rectum, this test employs a CT scan to view your colon. A virtual colonoscopy cannot detect flat polyps, which have a faster growth rate and are often associated with malignant development.

Cologuard: This new test requires no prep and can be done in the privacy of your home. You simply take a sample of a bowel movement and mail it to a lab for analysis. The lab looks for both blood and cancer-related DNA in the stool.

Take-home fecal tests: The fecal occult blood test (FOBT) and fecal immunochemical test (FIT) both check for traces of blood in the stool, which could indicate cancer. Simply send a stool sample to a lab. This test has the highest rate of false positives than any other screening tests.

Sigmoidoscopy: Like a colonoscopy, this exam inserts a thin, flexible tube with a tiny camera into the rectum. It's best for those at low risk for colon cancer, meaning no family history and no previous polyps. You follow a clear liquid diet the day before you take the exam and take a laxative or enema that morning. This test only views 1/3 of the colon and cannot remove large polyps.

With any of these alternative methods, if the test is positive, the patient will need to have a colonoscopy. Although a colonoscopy is the best way to prevent and detect colon polyps and cancers, getting screened in some way is what matters. Any screening is better than nothing.

To learn more about the colonoscopy procedure or any of its alternative procedures, contact one of our highly skilled and trained gastroenterologists. Click here!