Colorectal in-home screenings

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To round out Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, let’s take a look at colorectal in-home screenings. You already know how important it is to take care of your colon and rectum health. With that in mind, here are the 3 most common types of in-home screening methods and 1 good reason why screenings are important.

What are screenings and why are they important?

Whether it be in-home methods or a colonoscopy at the doctor’s office, a colorectal screening is a preventive measure to help you stay on top of your health. A screening is done without the presence of symptoms and is a proactive measure that can be taken to keep on top of your health.1 Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women and the third most common cancer in the U.S.2 However, because it can be screened, it’s also one of the most preventable types of cancer.3 Since colorectal cancer doesn’t always cause symptoms, it’s important to do screenings to test for any precancerous or cancerous polyps. 

In a study by the National Institutes of Health, it was found that people were 40% more likely to do a colorectal screening when they could do it in their own home.4 This could be due to the private nature of the screening or the accessibility of in-home kits or because colonoscopies require dietary restrictions and personal prep beforehand. While in-home colorectal screening kits should not replace the screenings with your doctor, they are a good way to continue and supplement your healthcare needs.

Be sure to talk to your doctor about: 

  • The screening methods that may work best for you 
  • What age you should start screening, based on your personal and family history

3 types of in-home colorectal screenings

Fecal immunochemical test (FIT or iFOBT)

What it tests for: Blood in stools

How many samples are needed: 1–2 samples are required.

How often this test should be done: Annually, in addition to a colonoscopy every 10 years. If blood is detected in the sample, it is recommended you see your doctor and schedule a colonoscopy right away.

Accuracy: According to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, which reports accuracy on the basis of sensitivity and specificity, this test scored 73.8% sensitivity and 96.4% specificity.*

Guaiac fecal occult blood test (FOBT)

What it tests for: Blood in stool

How many samples are needed: 3 samples are required.

How often this test should be done: Annually, in addition to a colonoscopy every 10 years. If blood is detected in the sample, it is recommended that you see your doctor and schedule a colonoscopy right away.

Accuracy: According to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, which reports accuracy on the basis of sensitivity and specificity, this test scored 70% sensitivity and 92.5% specificity.

Stool DNA test

What it tests for: Blood and abnormal DNA in stool

How many samples are needed: 1 stool sample is collected and sent to the lab. These kits come with appropriate sample collection devices.

How often this test should be done: Every 3 years. If the test detects any precancerous or cancer cells, a colonoscopy should be done.

Accuracy: According to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, which reports accuracy on the basis of sensitivity and specificity, this test scored 92% sensitivity and 87% specificity.

*The Colorectal Cancer Alliance defines sensitivity as the ability to correctly identify colorectal cancer in people with colorectal cancer. In other words, if the percentage is 73%, it means out of 100 people with colorectal cancer, 73 were correctly identified as having colorectal cancer. Specificity is defined as the number of correctly identified people without colorectal cancer. If the percentage is 80%, it means out of 100 people, 80 without colorectal cancer were correctly identified.5

Sources:

  1. “What Should I Know about Screening?,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed February 26, 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal/basic_info/screening/.
  2. “Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, last accessed February 11, 2019, https://healthfinder.gov/NHO/MarchToolkit.aspx.
  3. “Colorectal (Colon) Cancer,” Healthline, last accessed February 11, 2019, https://www.healthline.com/health/colon-cancer#risk-factors.
  4. “Mailing Free Test Kits Improves Colon Cancer Screening Rates,” Medical News Today, last accessed February 26, 2019, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/273274.php.
  5. “There Are Many Choices for Early Detection,” Colorectal Cancer Alliance, last accessed February 26, 2019, https://www.ccalliance.org/screening-prevention/screening-methods.

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