In the United States, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer and the second leading cause of death. The American Cancer Society estimates 97,220 new cases will be diagnosed in 2018. Screening for colorectal cancer is important because when found at an early stage, it can frequently be cured.

What are the Screening Choices?

There are many choices for screening in the average risk population.

Who is considered an average risk person? Someone between age 50 and 75 without a personal or family history of colon or rectal cancer or polyps and without abdominal symptoms such as blood in the stool, change in the caliber of the stool, or abdominal pain.

There are stool-based tests and there are also direct visualization tests, such as colonoscopy, used for screening.

Stool-based tests require submission of stool samples to be analyzed in the lab. The Hemoccult Sensa is a test done annually and evaluates stool for guaiac, a component of blood. The Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) is performed annually and examines the stool for the human blood product heme. The fecal DNA test is performed every 1-3 years and looks for certain DNA within your stool that may indicate colorectal cancer. If any of these tests are positive, a colonoscopy may be recommended.

New Colonoscopy Updates

The United States Preventive Service Task Force submitted updated recommendations in 2016 for colorectal cancer screening. All of the tests mentioned above resulted in no difference in number of life-years gained and no difference in number of colorectal cancer deaths averted when done appropriately. What’s the best test for screening people for colorectal cancer? The one that gets done! 

Vermont Screening Rates

How are we doing at screening for colorectal cancer in Vermont? Nationwide, our rate is only 67 percent. In Vermont, we are doing better at 72 percent, but there is still high variability across the state ranging from 64 percent to 77 percent.

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