Submitted by Dr. Ankeney for Kaiser Permanente
Our ultra-convenient order-from-home culture is making everything so much easier. Need groceries? No need to leave the house – they can be at your door in 2 hours. Want a new couch? The internet can get that to your home with free shipping! Need to get your dog a bath? Someone will bathe your pet in a van in front of your house. It seems like nearly all of what we need and want can now come straight to us.
This is also true with colon cancer testing! It used to be the only screening available was to come into a medical center and undergo a colonoscopy. While colonoscopy is still used for diagnostic purposes and for screening in some cases, we now recommend patients stay at home instead and use a FIT kit. That’s right – most people can screen for colon cancer from the convenience of your own home.
I for one find this development fantastic news – it’s fast, easy, private, and I don’t even need to change out of my pajamas.
Colorectal cancer is the 2nd highest cause of cancer-related deaths. More than 1,000 people died of colorectal cancer in Washington state in the last reporting year. Yet 1 in 3 of us isn’t up-to-date with colorectal cancer screenings. Screening can identify polyps early before they become cancerous, allowing us to treat them before they create significant health risks.
One of the reasons why we’re not up-to-date is it’s not something you talk about at the dinner table: poop. It’s sad to think that our politeness could be keeping us from reminding our loved ones to get life-saving tests. Don’t let this happen to you and your family. Talk about poop.
Because that’s the thing – instead of checking inside our colons for polyps as colonoscopy does, the FIT kits check our stool – yes, poop—for trace amounts of blood that could signal the presence of polyps. Patients whose FIT screenings show these traces will be notified and will follow up with a diagnostic colonoscopy which can diagnose the cause.
FIT kits are easy! Free shipping, free returns! Seriously, though- it’s an envelope that you get in the mail or from your health care provider’s office that includes the few simple tools you need to do the at-home test. Basically how it works is they give you a very small swab stick attached to a small test tube lid. Touch the stick to your poop (you keep your fingers on the lid and don’t make contact), then screw the lid into the test tube. Drop it in the pre-paid envelope to the lab, drop it in the mail, and BOOM! Done!
Really, it’s that easy.
I can’t think of many other life-saving things that are this easy. Wearing a life jacket or helmet? Fastening your seatbelt? You wouldn’t skip those – don’t skip this either.
We recommend FIT kit testing every year for most patients 50 and better. At Kaiser Permanente we’ll hand you a kit when you come in to see us. Or talk to your provider about how you can get one.
So next time you’re ordering a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and a roll of artificial turf online, don’t forget that screening for colorectal cancer is just as easy. Talk to your loved ones and your doctor about screening.