There are several screening options available, but we believe, “the best test is the test that gets done.”
What Types of Screenings are Offered?
For a colonoscopy, the doctor looks at the entire length of the colon and rectum with a colonoscope, a thin, flexible, lighted tube with a small video camera on the end. It’s put in through the anus and into the rectum and colon. Special instruments can be passed through the colonoscope to biopsy (sample) or remove any suspicious-looking areas such as polyps, if needed.
Before the test: Be sure your doctor knows about any medicines you are taking. You might need to change how you take them before the test. The colon and rectum must be empty and clean so your doctor can see the lining of the entire colon and rectum during the test. This process of cleaning out the colon and rectum is sometimes unpleasant and can keep people from getting this important screening test done. However, newer kits are available to clean out the bowel and may be better tolerated than previous ones. Your doctor can discuss the options with you.
During the test: The test itself usually takes about 30 minutes, but it may take longer if a polyp is found and removed. Before it starts, you’ll be given a sedating medicine to make you feel relaxed and sleepy during the procedure. The doctor will look at the inner walls of the colon as he or she slowly removes the colonoscope. If a small polyp is found, it may be removed and then sent to a lab to be checked if it has any areas that have changed into cancer. This is because some small polyps may become cancer over time.
UT Health Science Center offers a colorectal cancer screening test that is simple and convenient—at no cost for the uninsured and those who qualify. Best of all, this test can be done at home.
The fecal immunochemical test (FIT) tests for human blood in the stool which is found in red blood cells. The FIT is done by collecting small amounts of stool in tubes. Some people may find this test easier because there are no drug or food restrictions and collecting the sample may be easier. This test must also be done every year, and if the results are positive for blood, a colonoscopy will be needed to investigate further.
For the FIT collection, have all of your supplies ready and in one place. Supplies typically include a test kit, a tube, long brushes or other collecting devices, waste bags, and a mailing envelope. The kit will give you detailed instructions on how to collect the samples. Be sure to follow the instructions that come with your kit, as different kits might have different instructions. If you have any questions about how to use your kit, contact your doctor’s office or clinic. Once you have collected the samples, return them as instructed in the kit.