Colonoscopy vs Cologuard: Which is Most Effective?
- Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States.
- A colonoscopy is a procedure that allows doctors to examine the entire colon and rectum using a long, flexible tube with a camera on the end.
- Cologuard is a non-invasive test that screens for colon cancer using a stool sample.
The third most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the US is colon cancer. For the best results, early detection and treatment are essential. colonoscopy and Cologuard tests are two screening techniques that have grown in popularity recently. Even though they both work well at finding colon cancer, there are important differences between the two. Making the best test choice for you can be difficult. To assist you in choosing the screening method that is best for you, we will compare colonoscopy vs Cologuard tests in this article.
Understanding the Importance of Colon Cancer Screening
Understanding the need for colon cancer screening is crucial before delving into the differences between colonoscopy and Cologuard tests. Large intestine or rectum colon cancer often develops without any symptoms. Regular screenings can find colon cancer in its earliest stages, when it is most easily treated.
Individuals with a family history of colon cancer or other risk factors may need to begin screening earlier than the usual recommendation of 50 and older. The American Cancer Society advises people at average risk for colon cancer to have a colonoscopy every ten years starting at age 45 or Cologuard every three years starting at age 50.
What is a Colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a procedure that allows doctors to examine the entire colon and rectum using a long, flexible tube with a camera on the end. During the procedure, the patient is sedated, and the doctor inserts the tube through the rectum and into the colon. The camera sends images to a monitor, enabling the physician to check the colon's lining for anomalies like polyps or cancer.
Because they enable doctors to both find and remove polyps in the same procedure, colonoscopies are regarded as the gold standard for colon cancer screening. Small growths called polyps on the lining of the colon have the potential to develop into cancer. Colon cancer can be stopped from developing by removing polyps during a colonoscopy.
Some people might find it difficult to get ready for a colonoscopy. It usually entails taking laxatives to clean out the colon and following a clear liquid diet for one to three days prior to the procedure. Patients might need to take the day off work to recover from the sedation after the procedure, which lasts between 30 and an hour.
What is Cologuard?
Cologuard is a non-invasive test that screens for colon cancer using a stool sample. The test looks for DNA alterations and blood in the stool, both of which can be indicators of colon cancer. Patients gather a stool sample at home and send it to a lab for examination.
Cologuard is a relatively new test that the FDA approved in 2014. It is a well-liked alternative for people who are reluctant to undergo a colonoscopy or who cannot have one for medical reasons. Most insurance policies also provide coverage for the test.
Cologuard is a non-invasive test, but it is not as precise as a colonoscopy. The American Cancer Society claims that Cologuard has a higher rate of false-positive results, which can prompt pointless follow-up testing. False-negative results can also happen, which means the test might not detect all cases of colon cancer.
The Pros and Cons of Colonoscopy vs Cologuard
Cologuard tests and colonoscopies are equally effective at finding colon cancer, but each screening technique has advantages and disadvantages.
- Colonoscopies give doctors a direct view inside your colon and rectum, making it possible to find even small polyps that other tests might have missed.
- The doctor can remove any abnormalities discovered during the colonoscopy, which can stop cancer from developing.
- Colonoscopies are typically advised every 10 years, so you only need to have the procedure done once every ten years.
- Colonoscopies are invasive medical procedures that call for sedation and preparation beforehand, which can be painful and time-consuming.
- Although these are uncommon, complications from colonoscopies can include bleeding, infection, or colon perforation.
- Cologuard is a non-invasive screening test that can be completed at home without the need for sedation or a trip to the doctor's office.
- Cologuard is a reliable screening tool that can find precancerous polyps and colon cancer.
- Most insurance policies cover Cologuard, so there is typically no out-of-pocket expense for the test.
- A colonoscopy, which can be invasive and uncomfortable, is required if the Cologuard test is positive in order to confirm the diagnosis and remove any abnormal growths.
- Cologuard is not as precise as a colonoscopy, so there is a higher chance of false positives (the test finds cancer when there is none) and false negatives (the test finds cancer when there is none).
Effectiveness of Colonoscopy vs Cologuard
Because they are so good at catching colon cancer and precancerous polyps, colonoscopies are regarded as the gold standard for colon cancer screening. Colonoscopies, which enable doctors to remove polyps before they develop into cancer, are extremely effective at preventing colon cancer and can detect up to 90% of cases.
Although less effective than a colonoscopy, Cologuard is still useful in identifying precancerous polyps and colon cancer. Cologuard has been shown in studies to be able to identify up to 92% of colon cancers, but it is less successful in identifying precancerous polyps. Cologuard may also cause false positives, or indications of colon cancer or precancerous polyps when neither is actually present.
Colonoscopy Preparation and Procedure
The patient must go through bowel preparation to clean out the colon before the colonoscopy. Typically, this entails consuming a large quantity of a special solution that induces diarrhea. During this time, the patient must remain close to a restroom. The actual procedure is done while sedated and typically lasts between 30 and an hour.
The patient lies on their side while the doctor inserts the colonoscope into the rectum and moves it through the colon. The colon will be carefully examined for any abnormalities, such as polyps or cancer, and any found polyps will be removed.
The patient will need to rest for a short while following the procedure before being released. Since the sedation used during the procedure may make it difficult for them to drive, they will need to make arrangements for someone to drive them home.
Cologuard Preparation and Procedure
Cologuard is a non-invasive test that can be carried out at home. A kit with everything the patient needs for the test will be mailed to them. They will need to use the kit to gather a stool sample, which they must then send to a lab for examination. Usually, the results are made available within a few weeks.
The patient will need to undergo additional testing to confirm the diagnosis if the test finds anomalies. A colonoscopy or other imaging tests to look at the colon may be necessary.
When to Choose Colonoscopy and When to Choose Cologuard
The most common recommendation for most people is to have a colonoscopy, which is the gold standard for colon cancer screening. Cologuard, however, may be a better choice in some circumstances.
Cologuard, for instance, may be a good choice for those who have an average risk of developing colon cancer but are unable or unwilling to have a colonoscopy. It might also be a wise choice for those who have a family history of colon cancer but have not yet scheduled a colonoscopy.
However, for those with a high risk of developing colon cancer, such as those with a family history of the disease or those who have had precancerous polyps in the past, a colonoscopy may be a better option. People who want the assurance that any abnormalities discovered during the screening can be immediately removed may find a colonoscopy to be a better option.
What About FIT?
Fecal immunochemical test, or FIT, is an additional non-invasive colon cancer screening test that looks for blood in the stool. The test is comparable to Cologuard, but it is less expensive and doesn't call for sending a stool sample to a lab.
For those who are at average risk for colon cancer but are unable or unwilling to have a colonoscopy or Cologuard, FIT is advised. Additionally, those who received a positive FOBT result are advised to take the test.
But when it comes to spotting polyps and detecting colon cancer, FIT is less precise than colonoscopy and Cologuard.
Cologuard vs Colonoscopy vs FIT: Which is better?
There is no one size fits all solution when deciding which screening test is best for you. Each test has pros and cons, and the choice ultimately comes down to your unique situation and preferences.
The most accurate and effective screening method for colon cancer is a colonoscopy, which also allows for polyp removal. However, the procedure is invasive and calls for sedation and bowel preparation.
Cologuard is a non-invasive test that can be done at home, but it is less reliable than a colonoscopy at detecting polyps. If the test is positive, a subsequent colonoscopy is necessary.
While FIT is another non-invasive test that costs less than Cologuard, it is less effective at detecting polyps and colon cancer.
Which is Right for You?
Your age, medical history, personal preferences, and cost are just a few of the variables that will influence whether you opt for a colonoscopy, Cologuard, or FIT. It's critical to discuss your options with your doctor and choose the screening technique that will work the best for you after doing your research.
If you're under 50 and at average risk for colon cancer, you can also take precautions to lessen your risk by following healthy dietary and lifestyle habits, staying active, abstaining from tobacco use, and drinking too much alcohol.
1. Can IBS cause a positive Cologuard test?
IBS cannot result in a positive Cologuard test, to be clear. Cologuard is made to look for DNA changes and blood in the stool, both of which can indicate colon cancer. These anomalies are not brought about by IBS.
2. Does Cologuard detect polyps?
Some precancerous polyps, but not all of them, can be detected by Cologuard. You will still require a colonoscopy to confirm the diagnosis and remove any polyps if the Cologuard test is positive.
3. How often should Cologuard be done?
For those between the ages of 45 and 75 who have an average risk of developing colon cancer, Cologuard is advised every three years.
4. How much stool does Cologuard need?
A tiny amount of stool, about the size of a walnut, is needed for Cologuard.
5. How accurate is Cologuard?
Cologuard has a sensitivity of 92.3% for detecting colon cancer and a sensitivity of 69.2% for detecting advanced adenomas, making it very accurate.
Colonoscopies and Cologuard tests are both reliable ways to check for colon cancer, but they differ greatly in terms of how they are performed, how they are prepared for, and how accurate they are. Due to the ability of colonoscopies to simultaneously detect and remove polyps, they are the gold standard for colon cancer screening. However, colonoscopies can be invasive and call for preparation with laxatives and a clear liquid diet.
Cologuard is a non-invasive test that uses a stool sample to check for colon cancer. The test is fairly new and is protected by the majority of insurance policies. However, it can produce false-positive and false-negative results and is not as precise as a colonoscopy.
Discussing the best screening method for you based on your medical history and personal preferences with your doctor is crucial. Recall that the best outcome for colon cancer depends on early detection and treatment.
- Mayo Clinic. (2018). Colonoscopy - Mayo Clinic. Mayoclinic.org. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/colonoscopy/about/pac-20393569
- Stool DNA test - Mayo Clinic. (2017). Mayoclinic.org. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/stool-dna-test/about/pac-20385153
- Mayo Clinic. (2018). Fecal occult blood test - Mayo Clinic. Mayoclinic.org. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/fecal-occult-blood-test/about/pac-20394112
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