Q. What types of tests are used for screening colon cancer?

A. There are several tests used to screen colon cancer. They are grouped into two categories:

  1. Tests that can detect both colorectal polyps and cancer
  2. These tests are performed with a scope inserted into the rectum or with special imaging (x-ray) tests. They provide a view of the colon structure to find any abnormal areas. If polyps are found during these tests, they can be removed before becoming cancerous. These tests include colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, virtual colonoscopy and Double-Contrast Barium Enema (DCBE).

  3. Tests that mainly detect cancer
  4. These tests check for signs of cancer in the stool (feces). These tests are used when people experience the symptoms of colorectal cancer and other digestive diseases. They are less invasive and easily done. They include Guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT), Stool DNA test and fecal immunochemical test (FIT). If blood, polyps or other suspicious areas are detected during these tests, your doctor will most likely recommend a follow-up colonoscopy.

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