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Happy 50th, Colonoscopy time! Or maybe not?

I am not a doctor, nor is this medical advice.

womanIf a colonoscopy were on my bucket list, I’ve checked the box four times. Lucky me.

Perhaps the most unpleasant gift at 50 is your doctor’s news that it is time to begin regular screenings for colon cancer. Doesn’t that sound fun? Well, there is some good news, so stay with me.

Used to be that at 50 (and every ten years thereafter) you were scheduled for a colonoscopy. Heavy duty laxatives and a restrained diet were just the lead up to the big event when your physician would use a thin flexible tube to look “you know where”. Yes, they give you a sedative to make you more comfortable, but make no mistake, this is not fun. A sigmoidoscopy (every three years) is a similar but less comprehensive screening test.

The home test option

Now, however, you may be offered a non-invasive option, High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test (FOBT), which checks for hidden blood in three consecutive stool samples and should be done every year. Being firmly in the school of thought that the words invasive and colon should never be paired,  I’ve looked into this.

Considerations for choosing which colon cancer screening test:

  • FOBT is usually only an option for those considered to be at low risk of colorectal cancer
  • If the FOBT results show any signs of trouble, you are going to have a colonoscopy
  • You will need to do this home test every year compared to a colonoscopy every 10 years
  • Costs: FOBT $10-25 per year, covered by most insurance.  Colonoscopy $800-1,600 every 10 years, covered by most insurance
  • Although a colonoscopy is considered a diagnostic test, any polyps found can be removed and tissue samples taken for closer examination

When you discuss your screening with your doctor, FOBT may be the right choice for you.

For a complete comparison chart,

Center for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal/pdf/SFL_inserts_screening.pdf

 

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