Know Your Screening Options

Know your colorectal cancer screening options.

You should talk with your doctor about which screening tests might be right for you. You may also want to check with your health insurance provider to see which screening tests are covered by your plan.

What screening options are available?

Fecal occult blood test  here are two types of FOBTs:

Guaiac FOBT: The sample of stool on the special card is tested with a chemical. If there is blood in the stool, the special card changes color.

Fecal Imunochemical Test (FIT): A liquid is added to the stool sample. This mixture is injected into a machine that contains antibodies that can detect blood in the stool. If there is blood in the stool, a line appears in a window in the machine. This test is also called fecal immunochemical test or FIT.

It is important to note that if your FIT test comes back positive, you must follow test up with a colonoscopy.

Colonoscopy is a procedure to look inside the rectum and colon for polyps, abnormal areas, or cancer. A colonoscope is inserted through the rectum into the colon. A colonoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove polyps or tissue samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer.

Virtual colonoscopy is a procedure that uses a series of x-rays called computed tomography to make a series of pictures of the colon. A computer puts the pictures together to create detailed images that may show polyps and anything else that seems unusual on the inside surface of the colon. This test is also called computed tomography colonography or CTC.

Sigmoidoscopy is a procedure to look inside the rectum and sigmoid (lower) colon for polyps, abnormal areas, or cancer. A sigmoidoscope is inserted through the rectum into the sigmoid colon. A sigmoidoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove polyps or tissue samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer.

DNA stool test:  This test checks DNA in stool cells for genetic changes that may be a sign of colorectal cancer. A positive result must be followed up with a colonoscopy.

*PDQ® Screening and Prevention Editorial Board. PDQ Colorectal Cancer Screening. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Updated <2/3/2017>. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/colorectal/patient/colorectal-screening-pdq. Accessed <2/15/2018>. [PMID: 26389230]