By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
July 31, 2017
- Why everyone should be screened for colon cancer
- How dangerous are colonoscopies?
- DNA: The next best thing in colon cancer screening
Colon cancer is one of the most preventable and treatable forms of cancer… if it’s detected early enough. But if it’s not caught in the early stages, it can be one of the most deadly.
This can be a big problem if you’re terrified at the idea of having a colonoscopy. And believe me. I’ve had more than my share of patients who are scared out of their wits by the idea of having one. I can’t say I blame them.
These procedures can be dangerous. In fact, serious complications – such as perforation or excessive bleeding – can occur in five out of every 1,000 colonoscopies performed. This means your odds of injury may actually be larger than your chances of getting colon cancer in the first place.
And I have to admit. These days colonoscopies may not be quite the “be-all and end-all” in cancer screening that they used to be.
Despite all of this, I’m still a very strong proponent for regular screening of this deadly form of cancer.
So let’s take a look at what some of your other options might be.
Are There Any Safe Alternatives to Colonoscopy?
As far as detection rates are concerned, colonoscopy remains the gold standard when it comes to revealing colon cancer.
On the other hand, medicine has come a long way in recent years. And it really shines when it comes to new innovations in colon cancer screening. Today we can actually test for it with stool samples.
In fact, you can actually pick up a fecal cancer detection kit at your doctor’s office. Then just take it home, use it in the convenience of your own bathroom and send it off for testing.
The two most common tests include a fecal immunochemical test (FIT) and the fecal occult blood test (FOBT). Of the two, the FIT is much more sensitive when it comes to detection of early-stage cancers and relevant tumors. But FOBT isn’t far behind.
Each of these tests is able to find small amounts of blood in the stool that you can’t see with the naked eye. If blood is detected, it could be an early sign of cancer or a polyp. In this case, you would still need to follow-up with a colonoscopy.
But there’s another test I like even better. You may have even seen the commercials for it on TV.
DNA Biomarkers Boost the Accuracy of Fecal Colon Cancer Screening
Detection of blood in the stool may or may not indicate colon cancer. However, when you add DNA analysis to the equation, it can provide a more accurate picture.
This makes the latest technology on colon cancer screening, called Cologuard®, a very powerful tool.
It’s a simple test of your stool that not only detects tiny amounts of blood. It also looks for certain DNA biomarkers and genes found in colon cancer.
And I have to admit. The results from Cologuard® are impressive.
In people who have positive results from the test, follow-up colonoscopies shows 83% of them are likely to have polyps or hemorrhagic lesions. And 75% of those with positive results are apt to have precancerous polyps.
All of these tests are great for people who fear colonoscopies. But they don’t get you entirely off the hook. Any positive result will still require the need for follow-up.
Don’t let that dissuade you. Take the test. Send your stool to the lab. If it comes back positive, I urge you to set your fears aside and take action.
Ultimately, it’s much less risky and unpleasant to undergo a colonoscopy than it is to die a slow and painful death from colon cancer.
Levin TR, et al. Complications of colonoscopy in an integrated health care delivery system. Ann Intern Med. 2006 Dec 19;145(12):880-6.
Oort FA, et al. Colonoscopy-controlled intra-individual comparisons to screen relevant neoplasia: faecal immunochemical test vs. guaiac-based faecal occult blood test. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2010 Feb 1;31(3):432-9.
Knowledge of Positive Cologuard Test Improves Colonoscopy Performance, Mayo Clinic Study Shows. Press Release. Mayo Clinic. May 2016.