Picking up after a dog, cleaning a litter box, changing a diaper — all three tasks have more than one thing in common: They involve poop and can’t be avoided. What’s another poop-related task you shouldn’t put off? Your colorectal cancer at-home fecal immunochemical test (FIT).
Recently, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force lowered the recommended age to begin colorectal cancer screening to 45, down from the previously recommended age of 50. Colorectal cancer — also called colon cancer — is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and women combined.
However, with screening, colon cancer is one of the most preventable and treatable cancers. Colon cancer screening can detect precancerous polyps and early cancers, which is key to starting effective treatment and reducing the risk of cancer-related death.
Get with FIT
FIT kits, provided by your doctor or laboratory, allow you to conveniently screen for colon cancer with ease in the privacy of your home. In just a few quick steps, you will use the provided materials to collect a small sample of your stool (poop).
The stool sample will be sent to a lab for testing. The lab will test for any hidden, microscopic blood from the lower intestines in the stool, which can be a sign of precancerous polyps or cancer. If blood is found in your stool sample, a follow-up colonoscopy will be scheduled to investigate further.
Why some just won’t do it
Cancer screening at home sounds so simple that it’s hard to believe some people would choose to skip it, even when counseled on the importance of early detection. However, according to Dr. Susan Chu, chief of gastroenterology for Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, patients often have a variety of excuses.
- They can’t believe an easy at-home test is effective.
- It’s too hard to deal with a stool sample.
- They don't understand that it’s a lifesaving test.
- They’re too busy.
- They don’t have any symptoms.
Unfortunately, colon cancer symptoms — including changes in bowel movements, visible blood in stools, unintended weight loss and fatigue — don’t always appear immediately. What’s more, there are other factors, such as a family history of colon cancer, not being physically active, or consuming an unhealthy diet, that can lead to the development of colon cancer. Without screening, precancerous polyps or cancer cells may not be detected and could continue to progress without treatment.
“It’s important to understand that you do not want to wait until you have symptoms,” Dr. Chu says. “By then, it can be too late. We are all busy, but we need to take care of ourselves.”
Dr. Chu advises people to talk with their doctor about screening if they have any concerns, are 45 or older, or are experiencing symptoms of colorectal cancer. “The best screening test is the one that gets done, and the FIT is both effective and easy to do,” she says.
Watch the video to learn how easy it is to do a fecal immunochemical test (FIT).