Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, so regular screenings are important to minimize your risk. Kaiser Permanente recommends regular colorectal screenings beginning at age 50 up to 75 for average-risk patients, age 45 for African American patients, and even earlier for patients with higher risk; such as patients with a family history of colon cancer or precancerous colon polyps or a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease.
Since the standard screening process for colorectal cancer, colonoscopies may sound unpleasant, it requires you to follow a specific diet for several days, followed by bowel prep (using laxatives to completely cleanse your colon), and then fasting the day of the procedure. It may be tempting to put off this important screening.
That’s why Kaiser Permanente now offers a variety of tests that can be used to screen for colon cancer including a FIT kit, or fecal immunochemical test kit, which is a noninvasive method of screening for colon cancer.
The FIT kit—an alternative to colonoscopies
“FIT doesn’t require a trip to the doctor’s office or an alteration to your daily life in any way,” says Dana Sloane, MD, chief of gastroenterology in Baltimore for the Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group (MAPMG). FIT tests allow fecal samples to be collected in the privacy of your own home, and then mailed to a lab for testing. The process is easy and surprisingly clean, and if you’re not convinced, your doctor can provide videos with detailed instructions. Read more about FIT testing here.
MAPMG makes the process even easier with the FIT testing program. Each year, you will receive a FIT kit in the mail, complete with the testing kit and instructions, and then you can mail the sample to the lab when you’re finished—without ever leaving your home for that awkward doctor’s visit.
An important difference between the 2 procedures: Colonoscopies only need to be performed every 10 years, while FIT kit testing needs to be performed every year. But FIT kits are less invasive and more convenient, and a less off-putting experience may help you stay on a more consistent screening regimen.
Ask your doctor if FIT kit screenings are the right fit for you! And to learn more about colonoscopies and FIT kits, visit the American Cancer Society website.