Which Screening Test is Best at Preventing Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer is the third deadliest form of cancer among men and women in the United States, claiming nearly 50,000 lives every year. It is estimated that 60 to 90 percent of these deaths could be prevented through proper preventive screening, but how do you know which screening method to choose? Are all tests created equal?

There are several options for colon cancer screening, and they include:

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy – A flexible, lighted scope is used to examine the sigmoid colon and the rectum. This procedure views less than half of the large intestine.
  • Virtual colonoscopy – An advanced CT scan produces 2D and 3D images of the colon and rectum.
  • Double contrast barium enema – An x-ray of the colon and rectum identifies any abnormalities or areas of concern.
  • Fecal occult blood test – An at-home test kit detects the presence of blood in the stool. The test is sent to a lab for results.
  • Colonoscopy – A thin, flexible, lighted scope examines the entire length of the colon and rectum for polyps, lesions and abnormalities (Source: Fight Colorectal Cancer).

It might be tempting to choose your screening method based on what seems most comfortable, affordable, or convenient, but the most important criteria in colon cancer screening is effectiveness, and that’s where the colonoscopy wins by a longshot. The colonoscopy is the only screening method that:

Thoroughly examines the entire lining of the colon – Flexible sigmoidoscopy only views the lower half of the colon, and other methods do not use a scope to examine the colon lining. The colonoscopy is the most thorough method of colon cancer screening available.

Can detect and treat abnormalities – Polyps that are detected during a colonoscopy can be removed on the spot before they have a chance to become cancerous. No other testing method has the ability to remove polyps.

Does not require further testing – Other screening methods will require a colonoscopy if polyps are detected. The colonoscopy is the only all-in-one procedure that eliminates the need for immediate follow-up testing. If all goes well during your exam, you won’t be due for another colonoscopy for 10 years (Source: StopColonCancerNow).

There are times in life where it’s ok to settle for second best, but your colon cancer screening shouldn’t be one of them. If you are over the age of 50 and haven’t yet scheduled your colonoscopy, call your doctor for a referral today. It’s one decision that can greatly reduce your cancer risk and give you peace of mind.