The American Cancer Society says colorectal cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of death in men and women in the U.S. This year, more than 50,000 Americans will die from colorectal cancer and more than 135,000 will be diagnosed with the disease.
March is colorectal cancer awareness month – a time to understand that one in 22 men will be diagnosed with this cancer and one in 24 women will. In the past, the only way to test for colorectal cancer was a colonoscopy. Now, doctors can see whether someone may be at risk through a FIT test, which stands for fecal immunochemical test.
“The FIT test is incredibly easy, non-invasive and can be done from home,” says Dr. Tadeu Ambros, a hematologist and oncologist at the Essentia Health Cancer Center in Fargo. “When you’re at the clinic for your regular checkup, you can just ask your doctor for it, and mail in the results.”
The test allows someone to collect a small stool sample at home, place it in a supplied test tube, and mail it to our clinic in a pre-paid envelope.
“Many people are too busy to take multiple days out of their schedule to undergo a colonoscopy,” says Dr. Ambros. “This FIT test just takes minutes.”
If the test comes back positive, your doctor will then ask you to come in and undergo a full colonoscopy because colorectal cancer is a possibility. A colonoscopy allows doctors to remove any pre-cancerous polyps or identify colon cancer.
“This is a game changer for cancer diagnoses,” says Dr. Ambros. “This one simple test could be what saves your life or the life of a loved one.”
Those age 50 and older are urged to get screened. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, let your doctor know and talk about when you should be tested.
For more information, call your local Essentia Health clinic or visit www.EssentiaHealth.org.