Need a Colonoscopy? Here Are Some Options

Posted on Oct 10th 2017 by Sarah St. John

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It’s time for your yearly checkup … Do you cringe just thinking of your doctor asking you about getting your colonoscopy?  If you answered yes, then keep reading to learn about other tests which are not so invasive.

Colonoscopy (Inspection of the bowel using a long, flexible telescopic camera): A colonoscopy is the preferred screening because visualizing your colon and checking for polyps is the best way to know if you are at risk for cancer.  Plus, if you do have polyps, they can be removed right then and there.  Wouldn’t you want something removed if you knew it could develop into cancer?  And – a colonoscopy does not have to be performed every year.  In general, if you are healthy, a colonoscopy is performed every 10 years.  If you are at a higher risk, your doctor might suggest every 5 years.

CT Colonoscopy (Inspection of the bowel using a CT scanner): Also known as a “virtual colonoscopy”, this test is not as invasive as the standard colonoscopy.  It is done in conjunction with a CAT scan machine.  Images of your bowel are taken which can show areas of irritation, ulcers, or polyps.  It is a great diagnostic tool; however, if you do have polyps, you would have to undergo a regular colonoscopy to remove them.  Also, some insurance plans do not cover CT colonoscopies.

Stool DNA test/FIT-DNA (Stool sample collection in your own home – for people with average risk):  You might have seen this advertised on television.  This is a great test and simple to do!  Similar to the tests below, you collect a sample of your stool and send back to the lab.  This test differs from the regular FOBT (explained next) because it not only tests for blood in your stool, but also for some types of cancer.  It is recommended that FIT-DNA tests be done every 3 years.

High-sensitivity Fecal Occult Blood Tests (Stool sample collection in your own home – for people with low risk): FOBT cards are very easy to use and are recommended for people who do not have a risk for cancer.  There are two different types of stool kits:  an FOBT, and an iFOBT.  With the regular FOBT kit, you need to have 3 samples of stool from 3 different bowel movements.  With the iFOBT test, you only need one sample.  Once the sample is collected, it is sent to a lab.  The lab looks for microscopic blood in your stool.  If you test positive, it is very important for you to follow up with your doctor to determine the source of your blood.  Sometimes a positive test will lead to a traditional colonoscopy.  It is recommended that FOBTs be done yearly.

Many screening tests are covered by insurance.  Decide what test you feel comfortable with and speak with your doctor about what is best for you. 

According to the American Cancer Society, colon cancer is the “second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States and the third most common cancer in men and in women.”

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Sarah St. John

Sarah is originally from England, but graduated from Algonquin College School of Nursing in Canada … that’s right Canada. She came to Florida upon graduation and has worked as an RN in many capacities, both clinical and administrative. Sarah is active in the classic car community in Jacksonville, FL. She proudly became an American citizen in 2009. Sarah is currently working at Florida Blue as a Clinical Quality Improvement Specialist.

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