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What is Cologuard®?

What’s the Buzz?

photo of Cologuard® Cancer Screening Kit

Cologuard® is a noninvasive colon cancer screening test that can be done at home. It is available by prescription only.

You may have recently heard about a new colon cancer test called Cologuard® that is being used at many Gastroenterology practices throughout the US. Cologuard is a noninvasive colon cancer screening test for adults 50 years or older who are at average risk for colon cancer. It’s important to understand that Cologuard detects cancerous cells but does not provide any preventive measures such as polyp detection that could progress into cancer over time. Cologuard is not for everyone and many physicians are of the opinion that Cologuard can never take the place of a colonoscopy procedure. The Gastroenterologists at GI North prefer to use the colonoscopy procedure due to its proven accuracy in detecting cancerous cells, polyps, and ulcers in the large intestine. If you live in the Atlanta area and are experiencing abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits, or notice blood in your stool, don’t ignore it! Contact GI North in Cumming, GA at 404-446-0600 today and schedule a consultation to discuss your bowel problems – it could save your life.

Colon Cancer Screening

It is a well known fact that colon cancer screenings are an important part of adult preventive care as we age and enter into our 50’s. Screenings can detect a variety of abnormal growths, typically polyps that develop on the lining of the large intestine or rectum. Polyps are fairly common; however, some are dangerous and can become cancerous over time. If polyps are found during a colonoscopy they will be removed and examined carefully to see if any cancerous cells are present. Colon cancer often has no obvious signs or symptoms in its early stages. By the time symptoms show themselves, in many cases the cancer has advanced to a later stage.

How Cologuard Works

Cologuard uses advanced stool DNA technology to find altered DNA from abnormal cells in the colon, which could be associated with cancer or precancer. The test does not require any special preparation and can be performed in the privacy of your own home without any down time. How is this possible? The Cologuard collection kit is shipped directly to your home where you collect a single stool sample using the kit. Once completed, you send the kit back to Exact Sciences Labs via prepaid UPS shipping or pick-up. Exact Sciences Labs provides the results back to your doctor who will contact you to discuss the results.

Cologuard verses Colonoscopy

Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer mortalities in men and women combined in the United States. Each year an estimated 150,000 people in the US will be diagnosed with colon cancer and an estimated 49,000 people will die from the disease. While both screening methods detect abnormalities in the colon, Cologuard is not considered to be preventive care or a replacement for diagnostic/surveillance colonoscopy for high-risk individuals. Cologuard comes with a long list of caveats concerning patient eligibility including family cancer history, known bowel diseases, and several cancer related syndromes.

A colonoscopy has an extremely high success rate for detecting cancerous cells in the colon without eliminating patients due to family history or illness AND goes one step further by detecting polyps or bowel disease. Some people are afraid of the procedure or have difficulty tolerating the preparation for a colonoscopy and may prefer Cologuard if they are eligible.

Resources and Next Steps

Colon cancer is one of the most preventable, yet least prevented, cancers in the US today. It is the third most diagnosed cancer, and second leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women 50 years of age and older. Despite these facts, colon cancer is one of the most treatable cancers if it is found early through screening. Even if you don’t have any symptoms, regular screening is worthwhile, because it can save your life. If you are age 50 it is time to have a colonoscopy. GI North Gastroenterology Services is conveniently located in Cumming, GA treating patients from all over north Georgia including Dahlonega, Dawsonville, Johns Creek, Alpharetta, Milton, Suwanee, Duluth and Canton. Learn more about GI North, here or call 404-446-0600 today to schedule an appointment.

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