Fecal Occult Blood Testing & Colonoscopy

According to American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and theU.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), colonoscopies should be done every 10 years to help identify lesions that may become cancerous.

According to these same organizations, annual fecal occult blood tests (FOBT) are as effective at detecting colon cancer as colonoscopies done every 10 years. A FOBT would be followed by a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy only if positive (most are negative).

FOBT costs $10-$25. Over ten years the cost would be between $100-$250

One colonoscopy done every ten years costs $800 to $1,600 dollars – three to six times more costly than annual FOBTs.

Annual FOBT is less invasive, has fewer side effects (actually there are no side effects), is much less expensive, and gets you in to your physician for your annual physical so other possible health conditions may be identified early.

With all the buzz about colonoscopies you might think that you would be getting second rate care with FOBT. However, annual FOBT is the colorectal cancer screening method with the best scientific data to support its efficacy and safety.

As a matter of fact, about colonoscopy the USPSTF states; “It is unclear whether the increased accuracy of colonoscopy compared with alternative screening methods (for example, the identification of lesions that FOBT and flexible sigmoidoscopy would not detect) offsets the procedure’s additional complications, inconvenience, and costs.”

Which method is better? Which method has minimal adverse effects? Which method has a positive impact on skyrocketing healthcare costs?

You can choose the method that makes the most sense to you.

recent article in the New York Times that explains that two new, non-invasive tests can be used to screen for colon cancer: virtual colonoscopy (basically a CT scan) and a whole stool DNA test.  I’ll keep my eyes and ears open for information on these emerging methods.

The Bottom Line: 

You have choices in how to get the best, most proactive healthcare. Now that is alternative medicine!

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