In both men and women, colorectal cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed types of cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death. Yet, it is a form of cancer that is largely preventable and easily detected early through the use of screening tools. While colonoscopies are the gold standard of screening methods for colorectal cancer, there are other testing methods that people can do from home, such as the FIT test.
The goal of screening is to detect cancer at early stages or even before it develops. The fecal immunochemical test (FIT) looks for hidden blood in the stool, which can be a sign of cancer. If you choose this screening method, your provider will send you home with a packet that includes instructions and tools to collect a stool sample. Once you’ve collected your sample, you simply mail it off to be tested and wait to hear the results from your physician. In the past, stool sample tests required three samples and you had to avoid certain foods before taking the test. The FIT test doesn’t require any drug or dietary restrictions, but a positive result can be caused by a few different health issues. If your sample is positive, it’s best to discuss your next steps with your physician. They may recommend a colonoscopy for further testing. While you only need a colonoscopy once every ten years if your results are negative, FIT tests should be done annually.
Colorectal cancer occurs in men and women equally, therefore it is recommended that you begin getting colonoscopies at the age of 50 unless there is a family history of the disease. If you have a family history of colon cancer, especially a parent or a sibling, have a discussion with your physician about early screenings and when you should start getting screened.
Cone Health has an exceptional network of nurses, oncologists, gastroenterologists and primary care providers who are dedicated to educating the community about the importance of colorectal cancer screening and making sure they get colonoscopies within the recommended time frame.
Christine Brannock is the oncology outreach manager at Cone Health Cancer Center. Christine earned a Bachelor of Science in public health education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2001, an associate degree in nursing at Guilford Technical Community College in 2004, Bachelor of Science in nursing degree from East Carolina University in May 2016, and an Oncology Certified Nurse. She has been an employee at Cone Health for 17 ½ years and is currently pursuing her master’s.