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Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers diagnosed every year in the United States in both men and women. Fortunately, however, screening procedures are available that can detect cancer’s presence before the affected individual shows any signs. Two of these screening procedures are the colonoscopy and the cologuard. And if you’re curious about the cologuard vs colonoscopy, read on to find out more.

This post will look at the differences between the two procedures and highlight how they work. Next, we’ll see how reliable they are and which one is best.

Colonoscopy vs Cologuard: Are They The Same?

While they might sound similar, a cologuard test is quite different from a colonoscopy.

A colonoscopy involves inserting a flexible tube and guiding it through to the end of the colon. This tube has a light and a camera at the end, which allows a gastroenterologist to examine the entire colon in live detail. The doctor will be looking for, among other things, polyps. A polyp is an abnormal growth of tissue that a doctor must remove to prevent cancer.

The benefit of a colonoscopy is that if the doctor finds a polyp anywhere along the colon, they can remove it right then and there, without any pain or discomfort. They can then send the polyp to the lab to be examined. Because of the ease of the procedure and its effectiveness, colonoscopy is the gold standard for detecting colorectal cancer.

However, some people may be hesitant to have the procedure done or cannot do so for whatever reason. In this case, the cologuard test fills in the gap.

Cologuard is a test that uses a stool sample to detect DNA mutations. From this, the test results can signal the presence or impending development of cancer. Compared to a colonoscopy, the test is noninvasive, and you can do it from home. Afterward, you can mail the stool sample out in a special container to a laboratory for testing.

A Look at Test Reliability: Cologuard vs Colonoscopy

The benefit of a colonoscopy is that it’s completely painless, and you can perform a retest only once every 10 years if you’re at average risk. The most significant benefit of all is that the test can not only detect but also prevent cancer. Since the doctor can remove a polyp while performing the examination, it’s a one-stop solution.

A cologuard is beneficial when immediate access to a doctor isn’t available or the patient is hesitant or unable to get a colonoscopy. However, the test can only detect cancer, not prevent it. And if the lab finds cancer, you’d require a colonoscopy to treat it anyway.

Stool DNA tests such as Cologuard also need repeating more often: once every 3 years. Another factor to consider is that false positives occur much more frequently. The false-positive rate for the Cologuard is 12%, with the test missing up to 8% of colon cancer entirely. Worse still, it can miss almost 50% of polyps that can develop cancer (are pre-cancerous.)

Ultimately, there is no real substitute for a colonoscopy. And for a good reason, a colonoscopy is the main reason colorectal cancer has a high recovery rate in individuals diagnosed early.

Conclusion: Consult a Doctor To Choose The Best Option For Your Needs

The most important thing is that everyone, regardless of age or gender, undergoes appropriate colon cancer screening protocols. No matter the type of test, you increase the chances of catching cancer early by getting routine checkups. A cologuard test is better than no test at all! And for more information, contact your local gastroenterologist. They’ll be able to ease any doubts you have about getting a colonoscopy.

At the Gastroenterology Diagnostic Center, we have significant experience in the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders. If you’d like to schedule a consultation with our board-certified gastroenterologists, please give us a call at (281) 357-1977.

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