Colon cancer is a disease that is very treatable if caught early. However, the rate of colon cancer screening is still very low.
One of the biggest risk factors for the disease is age, as most new cases occur in people over the age of 50. Unfortunately, many people don’t have symptoms in the early phases of the disease, making routine screening that much more important. According to the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation, “screening can detect up to 95% of colon cancer cases and is considered to be an essential part of digestive health care.” Good communication between doctor and patient is essential to ensure routine screening and early diagnosis in people with colon cancer.
We interviewed leading medical experts and patients about their experiences and the importance of screening for colorectal cancers. They were more than happy to share their stories to spread awareness and educate the public. Alfa Scientific Designs, Inc. shares our interviews in an effort to increase awareness and to support the ‘80% by 2018’ campaign to get 80 percent of adults between 50 to 75 screened by taking a colon cancer test by 2018.
In our interview with leading medical experts, one of the themes that were consistent across their responses is that the Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) is a simple and effective way to screen for colon cancer. We could not agree with them more. Alfa Scientific Designs, Inc., produces our own fecal occult blood test, made here in the USA. Our FIT test is called the iFOB (Immunochemical Fecal Occult Blood) Test.
Our first expert is Dr. Cedrek McFadden, MD, at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine-Greenville.
Dr. Cedrek McFadden, MD
Clinical Assistant Professor
University of South Carolina
I am a clinical assistant professor at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville and a colorectal surgeon at the Greenville Health System in Greenville, South Carolina. A large part of my practice involves colon screening and the management of colorectal cancer.
Testing is an effective screening modality for several reasons:
- No matter what I say or how I put it, some of my patients just won’t have a colonoscopy. FIT offers a viable noninvasive alternative form of colon screening to patients who will not or cannot have a colonoscopy. I have come to realize that sometimes the best test is the one that the patient will participate in, not the one that the doctor thinks is the best.
- The FIT test is a more specific test than guaiac-based testing for finding bleeding from the large intestine.
- Patients are perhaps more likely to use FIT testing because they don’t have to fast the day before or use the dreaded bowel prep juice! The FIT test is about as noninvasive as a test can get. The patient simply collects a single, full stool sample in an administered kit at home and mails it in for testing. Other stool-based tests require three stool samples, while FIT testing requires only one. No probing from the doctor required! As with all screening tests, a positive FIT test requires a follow-up colonoscopy.
Dr. James A. Surrell, MD
Creator of the Stop Only Sugar (SOS) Diet
Colorectal cancer is considered to be a “silent disease” in its early stages. Large studies done both in the United States and in Europe have shown that routine colonoscopy, with the removal of polyps, may reduce the incidence of colorectal cancer by about 75%. Stool blood tests, such as the FIT test, may also be used to screen for colorectal cancer. If the test is positive, then a colonoscopy should be done without delay.
In addition to finding and removing polyps, screening can aid in the detection of early, asymptomatic cancers that are associated with higher rates of cure. Up to 90% of these early cancers can be cured, but once symptoms develop, cure rates fall to less than 50%. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the death rate for colorectal cancer has fallen by about 3% in all populations over the past decade. It is believed that this reduction is due to increased screening efforts.
Unfortunately, not everyone receives proper screening. Although most screening modalities are now covered by insurance or Medicare, up to half of the population is not currently on the appropriate tests. The rate of screening varies widely throughout the USA due to numerous socioeconomic factors.
Colon Cancer Prevention
Preventive strategies can be very effective in minimizing the risk of developing colon cancer. There is evidence to suggest that eating a diet that is rich in whole wheat, fruits and vegetables and also low in meats and fat may help protect against colon cancer. According to the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation, “Health Canada recommends that everyone over 50 take 400 units of Vitamin D per day (unless there is a reason not to). Some experts also recommend taking folic acid unless someone in your family has had polyps or cancer.”
The Bottom Line
Though it can sometimes be difficult for patients to talk about or participate in routine screening, it is highly effective in early detection and treatment of colon cancer. ALFA’s iFOB test is a simple and non-invasive test that can also be used for routine screening at home or in the office before a colonoscopy is performed. Get in touch with us for more information about our iFOB colon cancer screening test and how it can help your patients!