How Do Home Colon Cancer Tests Measure up Against a Colonoscopy?
If you’re 45 or older, hopefully, you’ve realized it’s time to get screened for colorectal cancer, and you may be aware that there are a few options for colon cancer screening: a home testing kit or a colonoscopy.
There are probably three things you will consider when deciding what type of screening to get, and they are:
- How reliable and effective is this screening method?
- How intrusive or inconvenient will it be?
- How much will it cost?
These three things may all seem equally important to you, but in reality, if the answer to the first question isn’t “as good as it gets”, questions 2 and 3 are immaterial.
The Rise of the At-Home Colon Cancer Screening Test
At-home colon cancer screening tests, known to health professionals as MTsDNA tests, have grown in popularity in recent years, and it’s easy to see why:
- You can do them yourself in the privacy of your own home; the test is shipped to your address, you follow the instructions to submit a sample, and then you simply send it back to a laboratory for testing.
- Presumably cheaper than a colonoscopy.
- Presented to the public as a viable alternative to colonoscopies, with manufacturers claiming high accuracy rates
At home colon cancer screening test sound great. But do they stand up to scrutiny?
The Truth About At-Home Colon Cancer Screening Kits
Several studies have looked at MTsDNA tests and researchers have concluded that these tests fail to live up to the high standards of a colonoscopy, and ultimately cost patients more money. (Naber, et. al., Pickhardt, Bailey, et. al)
A recent study, published in July 2019 in the journal Plos One, found that when compared to all other colorectal cancer screening methods available, at-home colon cancer screening tests are “less effective and considerably more costly, making it an inefficient screening option.” (Naber, et.al)
What’s the Point of Getting a Screening If It’s Not That Reliable?
You will always have that lingering doubt at the back of your mind. You’ve had a screening, but it’s not really proven anything conclusively, so while it may have been cheap and unintrusive, how does that help in the long run if you’re still not sure you’re cancer-free?
The only way to put your mind at rest will be to have a colonoscopy, eventually, anyway, meaning that the money you spent on the home test, however small, was wasted.
Three Crucial Reasons Why a Colonoscopy Is the Only Real Option:
- A colonoscopy is a much more accurate and reliable screening method.
- A colonoscopy can also prevent colorectal cancer, as pre-cancerous polyps or abnormalities can be detected and removed during the procedure.
- Depending on the outcome of your procedure, you will not need to come back for another colonoscopy for five to ten years, while an MTsDNA test is required every three years.
Be Safe. Be Sure. Book Your Colonoscopy Now!
Most insurance plans cover 100 percent of screening colonoscopy costs for patients over 50 and more insurers are offering 100 percent coverage at age 45, now that the American Cancer Society has lowered the screening age. Though at-home kits are covered by insurance, a positive result means you are stuck paying out of pocket for your colonoscopy. Insurers only cover one form of screening.
If you’re not insured, or you have symptoms or a family history, you will need a diagnostic colonoscopy. You can “shop” for a colonoscopy you can afford. Independent ASCs offer cash pricing and itemized estimates, and their fees are often much lower than those hospitals charge.
The whole procedure, from prep to discharge, takes less than 24 hours, with plenty of time to fit activities around your prep. It’s a small ask: sacrificing a few hours, on just one day every five to 10 years, to prevent cancer. So book your colonoscopy now!
Naber, S., Knudsen, A., Zauber, A., Rutter, C., Fischer, S., Pabiniak, C., Soto, B., Kuntz, K. and Lansdorp-Vogelaar, I. (2019). Cost-effectiveness of a multitarget stool DNA test for colorectal cancer screening of Medicare beneficiaries. [online] Plos One. Available at: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0220234.
Pickhardt, P. (2016). Emerging stool-based and blood-based non-invasive DNA tests for colorectal cancer screening: the importance of cancer prevention in addition to cancer detection. Abdominal Radiology, 41(8), pp.1441-1444.
Bailey, J., Aggarwal, A. and Imperiale, T. (2016). Colorectal Cancer Screening: Stool DNA and Other Noninvasive Modalities. Gut and Liver, 10(2), p.204.