If you ask your average person “what type of clinical tests can be taken at home,” most of them will answer pregnancy or diabetes. A majority of the population doesn’t know that at-home tests are available for a variety of major diseases including colon cancer.
That is correct; you can screen yourself for colorectal cancer at home with a simple stool test. Who wouldn’t pick that over a colonoscopy?
Colorectal cancer screening is essential to your health and wellness as you age, so in this article, we will present a comprehensive overview of how you can take at-home colon cancer tests. We will also discuss how reliable they are, as well as their advantages and disadvantages.
Can You Check for Colon Cancer at Home?
The simple and direct answer is yes, you can do a colon cancer test at home.
If you are forty-five years or older, the Preventative Services Task Force recommends colorectal cancer screenings at least every three years. This recommendation, however, should not dissuade people under the age of forty-five from getting tested, nor should it keep anyone from testing more frequently than every three years.
Not everyone can conveniently or affordably visit a laboratory or clinic each time they need a colorectal cancer screening test. Not to mention, many people find the procedure itself to be awkward and physically uncomfortable. These reasons, among others, are contributing factors for healthcare professionals recommending reliable colon cancer tests to their patients that can be taken at home.
There are several established, veteran brands that have developed colon cancer screening tests to help you detect colorectal cancer at home. The process of self-screening for colon or rectal cancer at home is quite simple. All you need to do is purchase your kit online, follow the included instructions, and send your stool sample to the appropriate lab for analysis. Some brands make it even easier, by allowing you to get your results without sending your sample to a lab; you just have to wait a few minutes and you’ll have your diagnosis in mere minutes.
There are three simple ways to check if you are at risk of developing colorectal cancer. These include:
- Guaiac fecal occult blood test
- Fecal Immunochemical test
- Stool DNA testing
All three methods test your stool for the presence of blood and DNA, which is the earliest indication of colon cancer, pre-cancerous polyps, and like symptoms.
Guaiac Fecal Occult Blood Test (gFOBT)
This test uses a chemical called guaiac to detect blood in the stool. This method is routine and available to purchase from many pharmaceutical companies. For accuracy, the test requires stool from three separate bowel movements.
Some medications are incompatible with gFOBT, including NSAIDs, vitamin supplements, and more. Additionally, restricting your food intake before you collect your samples diminishes the possibility of triggering false-positive or false-negative results.
Fecal Immunochemical Tests (FIT)
A FIT DNA test also detects blood in the stool, but by using antibodies instead of guaiac. This method is also available from many major pharmaceutical manufacturers, particularly because it only requires one sample and does not necessitate preemptive dietary restrictions.
Stool DNA Test
Unlike the two mentioned above, this test checks for the presence of DNA in the stool to detect colorectal cancer. DNA indicates the presence of cancerous or precancerous polyps within the colon. These cells are shed along with other cellular waste in the body. DNA stool tests do not require or prohibit any food or medicines from being in the system at the time of sample collection.
How to do the at-home colon cancer test?
You can order a kit from the list of best at-home colon cancer test kits. Once the package gets delivered to you, read the instructions and collect the sample to be screened as directed. Try not to rush, this can cause mistakes. For the results, you need to send your test card or strip, after applying your stool, back to the laboratory for testing.
The company you purchase your kit from will provide an envelope or other packaging resource in which you will ship your sample to the lab for testing. Your results will likely be made available to you either via email or your online account with the company that supplied your test kit.
How Accurate are At-Home Colon Cancer Tests?
A study published in the Journal of Annals of Internal Medicine states FITs to be as accurate as 79%. However, stool testing is linked with 92% accuracy. The study has found that for people who have an average risk of colorectal cancer, FITs are the most effective method of at-home colorectal screening kits. It is recommended, that people test their stool at least once a year, to best monitor or maintain their colon or rectal health.
This high level of efficiency and high-quality results are likely the byproduct of the rigorous requirements pharmaceutical companies must undergo in order to provide the best at-home colon cancer tests. Depending on your family history and risk factors, at-home colon cancer test kits can potentially save your life, or help you detect a condition before it gets too serious.
Many of the companies supplying at-home colorectal screening kits use certified laboratories to examine collected samples. The accuracy of results also requires correct collection that is free from contamination. Assuming these conditions are met, you should have no reason to believe your kit will yield inaccurate test results.
Healthcare officials all over the world agree that at-home colon cancer testing is a safe, preventative procedure, as well as vital for early detection of colon cancer. Thankfully, the convenience and privacy it affords make it a more attractive alternative for many people, and therefore at-home tests may be more likely to be completed.
The following groups possess high-risk factors for colorectal complications and should perform self-screenings regularly: those with a family history of cancer or polyps and those with inflammatory bowel diseases (i.e. Chron’s, ulcerative colitis).
Is an At-Home Colon Cancer Test Right for You?
Many people doubt the safety or reliability of at-home colon cancer tests. For your convenience, we’ve developed a list of the most common pros and cons, so you can make the best decision for your health.
- You can collect your stool sample easily, and from the comfort of your own home whenever you experience a bowel movement.
- You are more likely to catch colorectal cancer in its early stages if you conduct self-screenings frequently, rather than waiting for the next opportunity to complete. test at your local clinic or hospital.
- Self-screenings are non-invasive, requiring no anesthesia, injections, or medications. You can know your health status without experiencing a colonoscopy.
- Most self-screening test kits do not require bowel preparation or a restricted diet before collecting your sample.
- Self-screenings completed at home don’t have any hidden fees or co-pays. You both know, and get exactly what you’re paying for.
- Your insurance plan is likely to cover the cost of your screening.
- If your screening yields positive results, you need to see a professional for a colonoscopy. This will likely yield a lower insurance reimbursement, as it will be billed a diagnostic procedure, rather than a screening.
- Stool collection is not invasive, and therefore is not as thorough as a full colonoscopy.
- Most of the kits come with certain age restrictions, so they cannot be used by all age groups.
- False-positive or false-negative results may occur.
- Colorectal self-screenings are to be repeated annually.
At-home colon cancer tests are a safe, convenient, and fast alternative to the conventional testing methods at clinics and hospitals. All you have to do is collect your samples and send them to the appropriate lab. Should you test positive, you are eligible for free, expert guidance about the next steps or initiating your care plan.