Maybe you've heard that it's a good idea to be screened for colorectal cancer — but you're not sure when to begin. Or maybe you've heard that there's one screening test that's better than the rest — but you don't know which one. Or maybe the whole idea of a doctor inserting a tube into your colon makes you nervous or embarrassed, and you just need to know more about it before you begin. Read on.
- Talk to your doctor about colorectal cancer screening. Initiating the conversation is often the hardest step. Overcoming embarrassment can be difficult for some people. You can put yourself more at ease by becoming informed of the value of this potentially life-saving procedure.
- If you feel anxious about testing, keep in mind that colorectal screening is usually not painful, even if some testing methods are invasive and time-consuming. At worst, testing will cause discomfort. For certain tests like colonoscopy, you will be sedated.
- Work with your doctor to pick the best screening option for you. Your personal risk may be high; if this is the case, you will need colonoscopy. If your risk is average, you have other choices. For more information on your screening options, click here.
- Colonoscopy is the most accurate screening test for colon cancer. However, colonoscopy is also the most invasive and the most expensive. Find out if your insurance plan will cover colonoscopy. Many private insurance plans will only provide payment if you are suspected of having polyps or cancer or if you have a greater-than-average risk of colorectal cancer.
- If you prefer a test that is less invasive or less expensive, talk to your doctor about other options, such as fecal occult blood testing, sigmoidoscopy, or barium enema. Combining two tests, for example sigmoidoscopy with fecal occult blood testing, may be more accurate than either test by itself.
- Don't get overwhelmed by making a decision about which procedure to undergo. If performed as recommended, any testing procedure greatly reduces the risk of colon cancer. The greatest danger is not getting screened.