Colorectal cancer may be detected with regular screening. Screening can even help prevent colorectal cancer when it’s small and hasn’t spread. When colorectal cancer is detected early, it can be easily treated.
Colorectal Cancer Screening Tests
Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT)
The fecal immunochemical test, also known as FIT, is used to screen for colorectal cancer. The FIT is performed the same way as the traditional fecal occult blood test without following a special diet or using special drugs in preparation for the test. Like the FOBT, the FIT detects small amounts of blood in feces, which might be a sign of a polyp or cancer. When performed annually, beginning at age 45, FIT allows physicians to track patients at high risk for CRC.
A colonoscopy is a screening test that uses a scope to examine the inside of the entire colon and rectum for abnormal growths (polyps). This procedure requires that patients follow dietary and medication restrictions to be accurate. The I test aims to remove precancerous polyps before they develop into colorectal cancer.
Who Should Have a Colonoscopy?
Based on the recommendations of the American Cancer Society:
Men and women 45 years of age and older who are at average risk of colorectal cancer should have a colonoscopy once every 10 years. Men and women with a family history of colorectal cancer should first be screened at age 40 (or at an age that is 10 years younger than the age at which the youngest immediate family member was diagnosed with the disease) and should be screened more often.
Individuals who have certain intestinal diseases (ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease), inheritable colon cancer syndromes (familial adenomatous polyposis and Lynch syndrome) and are at high risk of colorectal cancer should begin screening at even younger ages.
Men and women who have had polyps or other precancerous tissues removed and those who have had colorectal cancer should only be screened with colonoscopy.
In the Harris Health System, when patients have a positive FIT result or present with symptoms concerning for colon cancer, they are referred to a gastroenterologist for a colonoscopy. To help patients understand how to properly prepare for the procedure, the Community Network for Cancer Prevention collaborated with the clinical staff of the Harris Health System to develop colonoscopy preparation videos and colonoscopy instruction printed guides.
Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT)
The fecal occult blood test, also known as FOBT, can also determine whether blood is in a patient’s stool by testing a stool specimen for colorectal cancer. The FOBT detects small amounts of blood in feces. When performed annually, beginning at age 45, FOBT allows physicians to track patients at high risk for CRC. Patients will have to follow a special diet and avoid taking certain drugs when taking the FOBT as they may affect test results.
Men and women who are 45 years of age and older should have FOBT each year. The FOBT checks for blood in the stool, which may be a sign of cancer. This test may be done privately at home. If blood is found in the stool, additional exams may be required, such as a colonoscopy.
iFIT Kit and Educational Materials
The Community Network developed the iFIT kit for Cancer Prevention in collaboration with the Harris Health System's clinical staff. The purpose of the iFIT kit is to:
- Increase knowledge and awareness of CRC screening guidelines and services among Harris Health System patients.
- Provide tools to health providers to educate patients about CRC screening resources available at the state, regional, and local levels.
- Increase rates of referral and follow-up of abnormal iFIT results through the Harris Health System.
- Increase the proportion of patients identified as being at risk for CRC.
- Increase the proportion of patients diagnosed with CRC in precancerous or early stages of the disease.
iFIT Educational Videos
Patients in the Harris Health System who are eligible for CRC screening are identified by an alert from the health-maintenance module in the electronic medical record system.
Eligible patients can view a brief educational video about CRC screening in English, Spanish, or Vietnamese before visiting with their physician.
Each video is culturally and linguistically appropriate for Blacks or African-Americans, non-Hispanic Whites, Hispanics, and Vietnamese men and women. Because the patient selects the video he or she prefers to watch, selection data can be used to analyze whether CRC screening rates will improve, patient knowledge about CRC screening will increase, and patient attitudes about CRC screening will change.
All of the videos can be viewed online.
iFIT Distribution Bag
The iFIT distribution bag was developed so that patients could carry all of their sample collection supplies discretely in a single bag and to remind them to take the test and return their specimen-collection card to the clinic.
The bag contains an instructional guide, a biohazard bag, gloves, a sampling bottle, and an absorbent pad. All the test materials and instructions in the bag are printed in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
Printed Instruction Guide
At the end of the clinic visit, a Harris Health System staff member explains this instructional guide to the patient. This printed guide is a set of easy-to-read step-by-step instructions for the iFIT in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. The guide is designed to help patients complete their iFIT screening in the privacy of their homes
FOBT Educational Materials
FOBT Educational Videos
Patients who are eligible for CRC screening are allowed to view a brief educational video about CRC screening in English or Spanish before visiting with their physician.
Each video is culturally and linguistically appropriate for Black or African American, non-Hispanic White, and Hispanic men & women. Because the patient selects the video he or she prefers to watch, selection data can be used to analyze whether CRC screening rates will improve, patient knowledge about CRC screening will increase, and patient attitudes about CRC screening will change.
All these videos can be viewed online.
Printed Instruction Guide
At the end of the clinic visit, a clinical team member explains this instructional guide to the patient. This printed guide is a set of easy-to-read step-by-step instructions for the FOBT. The guide is designed to help patients complete their FOBT screening in the privacy of their homes. It explains how to perform the test, how to properly store the specimens, and where to return them.
Preparing for a Colonoscopy Videos
Patients referred to a gastroenterologist for a colonoscopy can view a brief educational video about preparing for a colonoscopy in English, Spanish, or Vietnamese.
Each video is culturally and linguistically appropriate for Black or African-American, non-Hispanic White, Hispanic, and Vietnamese men and women. The videos are designed to help patients properly prepare for a colonoscopy. It explains dietary and drug restrictions, when special medicines required before the test should be taken, what to expect during the procedure, how long the procedure will take, and any physical restrictions after the procedure.
All of these videos can be viewed online.
Printed Instruction Guide
The printed colonoscopy instructional guide is a set of easy-to-read instructions given to HHS patients when they are scheduled to undergo a colonoscopy. The guide is written in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese and is designed to help patients properly prepare for the procedure.