What is Cologuard?
Cologuard is a stool DNA test that detects DNA mutations and detects pre-cancer and cancer, if present, from a full stool sample. It is a non-invasive test that can be done from home and then mailed out to a lab for analysis. Colorectal cancer or polyp cells often have DNA mutations (changes) in certain genes. Cells with these mutations often get into the stool, where tests may be able to find them. Cologuard, the only test currently available in the U.S., tests for both DNA changes and blood in the stool.
This test should be done every three years and can be done in the privacy of your own home. It tests a full stool sample. There are no drug or dietary restrictions before taking the test.
Collecting the samples: You’ll get a kit in the mail to use to collect your entire stool sample at home. The kit will have a sample container, a bracket for holding the container in the toilet, a bottle of liquid preservative, a tube, labels and a shipping box. The kit has detailed instructions on how to collect the sample. Be sure to follow the instructions that come with your kit. If you have any questions about how to use your kit, contact your doctor’s office or clinic. Once you have collected the sample, return it as instructed in the kit. If the test is positive (if it finds DNA changes or blood), a colonoscopy will need to be done.
What is the difference between a colonoscopy and a Cologuard test?
Cologuard, a stool-based test, looks for signs of cancer in the stool. This test is less invasive and easier to have done, but it needs to be done more often.
A colonoscopy is visual exam that looks at the structure of the colon and rectum for any abnormal areas. These tests each have different risks and benefits and some of them might be better options for you than others.
Cologuard vs colonoscopy — how the two compare:
A convenient at-home option
No pre-test diet or bowel prep needed.
Lower initial cost
No direct risk to the colon
Can miss many polyps and some cancers
Can have false-positive test results
Should be done every three years
Colonoscopy will be needed if there are any abnormal findings
Still fairly new –check your medical insurance for coverage
Designed to detect and not prevent cancer
Detects and prevents colon cancer
A painless outpatient procedure
More effective and comprehensive
Can biopsy and remove polyps during the procedure
Necessary if any other screening is positive
Done every 10 years
Can help find some other diseases
Can miss small polyps
Full bowel prep needed
Costs more on a one-time basis than other forms of testing
Sedation is usually needed - so you will need someone to drive you home
You may miss a day of work
Small risk of bleeding, bowel tears or infection
The best way to prevent colon cancer is to get screened. For more information or to schedule an appointment with a Christian Hospital gastroenterologist for a screening, call 314.747.WELL or request an appointment.
Christian Hospital and Northwest HealthCare, members of BJC HealthCare, provide world-class medical care to the communities of North County, Greater St. Louis County and Southern Illinois.