Is there an alternative to colonoscopy?

5:26 PM, Oct 11, 2011   |    comments
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By Kay Quinn Healthbeat Reporter

St. Louis (KSDK) - A colonoscopy is the best way to detect colon cancer, and to remove any small growths that can lead to cancer at the same time.

On this week's 8 Ways to Prevent Cancer segment, we take a look at whether there's an alternative for those who don't want a colonoscopy.

"Most physicians recommend colonoscopy starting at age 50," said Dr. Aimee James, a cancer researcher at Siteman Cancer Center.

The test is actually preferred by a lot of people because it is the most thorough.

But some people just don't want to go through the bowel prep and exam that involves scoping the colon. So, Dr. James says there is another option.

"One of those options is what we call the fecal occult blood test," said Dr. James. "It's a test that looks at stool, fecal matter to see if there's blood there that you can't see with your eyes."

It works on the premise that cancers will shed blood once they get to a certain stage. But you have to do it every year, as opposed to every ten years for colonoscopy.

"And it can come back positive for a lot of different reasons, not just cancer," said Dr. James. "And if it comes back positive, you end up doing a colonoscopy anyway."

So while the screening can be time-consuming, colonoscopy is still the gold-standard for lowering your risk of colon cancer.

"The important part is that any screening is better than no screening at all," said Dr. James, "and talking to your doctor about what test is best for you is really the way to go."



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