Q: Should I be screened for colon cancer? If so, what is the best test?
A: After "Black Panther" movie star Chadwick Boseman's recent death from colon cancer, colon cancer screening has emerged as a hot topic.
This is understandable as colon cancer is currently the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States. The good news is that colon cancer, with proper screening, can be preventable.
Colon cancer develops in the large intestine from tissue growths called polyps. If polyps are removed before they become cancerous, colon cancer can be prevented. Colonoscopy is the only screening test that can both detect and remove polyps, which is why it is the gold standard for colon cancer screening. Other screening tests such as FIT (fecal immunochemical test) or Cologuard are stool-based but are not recommended above colonoscopy. Cologuard should not be used as a primary screening test because results can be misleading and give a false sense of security. Stool tests should never be used if you have a history of polyps or family history of colon cancer.
Colon cancer screening starts at age 50, but high-risk individuals need screening earlier and timing should be discussed with your doctor.
When it comes to preventing colon cancer, choose the best screening test: colonoscopy.
— C. Robert Bosshardt, M.D., is a specialist in gastroenterology at Galen Digestive Health and a member of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society.