Colorectal cancer awareness

March 11, 2024

Would you test your own stool at home? What if it might save your life?

We spoke to Venice Family Clinic health educator Lizeth Martinez about colorectal cancer and an easy screening you can do in the privacy of your own home to prevent cancer or catch it early.

How prevalent is colorectal cancer?
You might be surprised to learn that colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of death from cancer in the U.S. People who have a family history of colorectal cancer and people of color have a higher risk of developing this cancer.

What symptoms of colorectal cancer should someone watch for?
Some common symptoms include a change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, rectal bleeding and blood in the stool. Generally speaking, it’s more likely that cancer has progressed if someone is having symptoms. Getting regularly screened is one of the most important steps to lower your risk.

When should someone start getting screened for colorectal cancer?
The American Cancer Society recommends getting screened starting at age 45, which might be news to some people because the recommended age to start used to be 50. And your clinician might recommend screening even earlier if you have symptoms or a family history of colorectal cancer.

So how do I get screened for colorectal cancer?
Many people think the only option is to get a colonoscopy. But medical providers may offer an at-home screening called a FIT Kit depending on your personal medical history and risk factors.

What’s a FIT Kit?
A Fecal Immunochemical Test can test for hidden blood in the stool, which could be a sign of pre-cancer. It’s a test you do at home, which is both easy and convenient. It may sound kind of gross, but once you’ve done it once, you’ll realize it’s really not that big a deal.

How do I know what different results mean?
Results can be positive, inconclusive or negative.

A positive result means that blood was found in the stool. If you get a positive test, your provider may recommend a colonoscopy to determine the source of the blood and to check for polyps.

An inconclusive test may mean the sample was not collected correctly or the test was damaged. In this case, you may have to repeat the test.

If the result is negative, you will repeat the FIT kit again in one year.

Remember: It’s never too early to talk to your clinician about whether you should be screened for colorectal cancer.

To learn more, check out our Instagram Collab with F*Cancer and join us for a Colorectal Cancer health education class. Visit the Community Calendar on our website to sign up.