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Category: Health News

Scottsdale, Arizona - If your doctor has recommended colon cancer screening, you might be able to choose from various colon cancer screening tests. If you're reluctant to make a decision, remember that any discomfort or embarrassment from colon cancer screening is temporary - and detecting problems early could save your life. To help choose the colon cancer screening test that's best for you, consider the following questions.

What preparation is involved?

Preparing for colon cancer screening can be uncomfortable or inconvenient, but it's necessary for the test to be effective. As part of your decision, consider your willingness or ability to follow the preparation instructions for specific colon cancer screening tests. This may — to varying degrees — include avoiding solid food the day before the exam, adjusting your medications, and using laxatives or enemas to empty your colon.

How convenient is the test?

In addition to test preparation, consider: 

What about cost and insurance issues?

Find out how much each colon cancer screening test costs, as well as which tests your insurance company covers. Consider whether you're willing to pay out-of-pocket if necessary.

What is your attitude toward screening tests?

The more thorough the colon cancer screening test, the more likely it is to detect any cancer or precancerous polyps. Conversely, a more thorough test might also mean more inconvenient or uncomfortable preparation, a slightly higher risk of serious complications, or both. Think about your approach to screening tests and what's most important to you. Will you feel best if you know you've chosen the most thorough screening test possible? Will you worry or doubt the results if you choose a less thorough test? How concerned are you about convenience, preparation or the possibility of serious complications?

What is your doctor's approach to screening tests?

Make sure that you're comfortable with the colon cancer screening test your doctor recommends. If your doctor specializes in a particular test but you'd rather have another test, express your wishes. If necessary, your doctor might offer a referral to someone trained in the test with which you feel most comfortable.

What is your risk level?

Your risk of colon cancer might influence your choice of screening tests. For example, your doctor might recommend colonoscopy as the screening tool of choice, likely at frequent intervals, if you: 

What are the pros and cons of each test?

Here's an overview of the most common colon cancer screening tests. 

Colonoscopy
A colonoscopy is an exam used to detect changes or abnormalities in the large intestine and rectum. A long, flexible tube (colonoscope) is inserted into the rectum. A tiny video camera at the tip of the tube allows the doctor to view the inside of the entire colon.

CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy)
CT colonography, also known as virtual colonoscopy, is an exam used to detect changes or abnormalities in the large intestine and rectum. During this exam, an imaging technique known as computerized tomography (CT) is used to produce cross-sectional images of the abdominal organs. To help create clear images, a small tube (catheter) is placed inside your rectum to fill your colon with air or carbon dioxide.

Fecal occult blood test
A fecal occult blood test is a lab test used to check stool samples for hidden (occult) blood.

Flexible sigmoidoscopy
Flexible sigmoidoscopy is an exam used to evaluate the lower part of the colon (sigmoid colon). A thin, flexible tube (sigmoidoscope) is inserted into the rectum. A tiny video camera at the tip of the tube allows the doctor to view the inside of the rectum and most of the sigmoid colon.

What's the bottom line?

Choosing a colon cancer screening test isn't always an easy decision, but it's a potentially lifesaving one. Consult your doctor about your colon cancer screening options. Commit to a screening schedule based on your personal risk factors. Remember, the earlier colon cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat.