Middle-aged couple exploring options for colorectal cancer screening

Colonoscopies: Is there an easier option?

Need a reason to stop avoiding colorectal cancer screenings? We’ve got several: Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States and the second leading killer. About 50,000 people die each year – even though it’s the most treatable cancer when detected early.

But if all that is not enough – we get it. The idea of a colonoscopy is not a comfortable one. The good news: There are more screening options than ever before.

What are my options?


Using a colonoscope, a flexible tube with a light and small video camera, the provider looks at the entire length of the colon and rectum. A clear liquid diet and colon cleanse are required the day before. You are sedated during the procedure. The provider takes tissue samples or removes any polyps. The test is done every 10 years, or more frequently based on the findings.


Done in the privacy of your home, you’ll get a kit in the mail for collecting a stool sample. It’ll have detailed instructions and everything needed to collect and ship the sample. The test looks for abnormal sections of DNA from cancer or a polyp. No drug or dietary restrictions are needed. If something is detected, a colonoscopy will be needed. The test is repeated every three years.

Fecal immunochemical test (FIT)

This test looks for hidden blood in the stool. For this test, small amounts of stool are collected on cards — or in tubes — in the privacy of your own home. There are no drug or dietary restrictions the day before the test. If results are positive, a colonoscopy will be needed. This test is repeated yearly.

When should I get screened?

The American Cancer Society now recommends people start colorectal cancer screenings at age 45, instead of 50, and earlier if they have any of these colorectal cancer risk factors:

  • A personal or family history of certain growths, called polyps, or colorectal cancer
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Certain genetic syndromes

Insurance coverage varies. You should contact your insurance provider to determine at what age your coverage begins.

“The best test is the one that gets done, whether stool based or colonoscopy,” said Dr. Omar Khokhar, gastroenterologist at OSF HealthCare. “Family history is becoming more important as well, so it’s essential to have that conversation.”

Talk to your doctor about which screening options are right for you.

About Author: Lisa Coon

Lisa Coon is a Writing Coordinator for OSF HealthCare, where she has worked since August 2016.  A Peoria native, she is a graduate of Bradley University with a degree in journalism. Previously, she worked as a reporter and editor at several newspapers in Iowa and Illinois.

She lives in Groveland with her husband and son. In her free time she likes to cook, bake and read. She freely admits that reality TV is a weakness, and she lives by the quote, “The beach is good for the soul.”

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Categories: Cancer, Preventive Health