As of 2020, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer among men and women, accounting for nearly 11% of all new cancer diagnoses around the world. The cancer itself is also the second deadliest, making it something that touches the lives of Americans across the country. However, there is a silver lining: It’s also one of the easiest to treat when caught early.

Unfortunately, in many cases, it’s not caught early enough. That’s likely due to the fact that about one in three eligible adults have not been screened for colorectal cancer, as recommended by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). 

We sat down with Dr. Dale Whitebloom, Chief Medical Officer of US Digestive Health (USDH), to help shed some light on the issue, as well as some misconceptions around the screenings themselves. Here, we’ll discuss the many different forms of colorectal cancer screenings available to patients today, including the latest, most advanced form of screening – one that surpasses the efficiency of a typical colonoscopy: The Platinum StandardSM

At-Home Kit: 

Only available by prescription, colorectal cancer screening kits can detect both blood in someone’s stool as well as abnormal DNA that can develop with polyps and cancer. According to Dr. Whitebloom, these at-home testing kits are helping to fill a void in many underserved and rural areas of the country where GI specialists are less available. 

In the communities that we serve, we have an ample supply of gastroenterologists to perform colonoscopy. But that’s not true everywhere in the United States. And so, in some communities, it becomes a viable option.”

However, Dr. Whitebloom went on to note that there are disadvantages associated with this form of screening. Stool-based testing is not as accurate at detecting pre-cancerous polyps and even cancer – in fact, these tests commonly have inaccurate readings. A study done by a leading provider of at-home tests indicated that 13% of patients without cancer received a false positive result, while 8% of people with cancer had a negative result (false negative).

Additionally, while colorectal cancer screening kits can sometimes be less expensive for patients without insurance, that may not always be the case. 

“If a stool-based test comes back positive, there can be a deductible associated with subsequent testing,” explains the doctor. “If the patient’s test is abnormal, that needs to be followed up on with a GI provider.” That follow-up is normally in the form of a colonoscopy, forcing the patient to undergo two studies instead of one. For those without insurance coverage, that also likely means more money out of pocket.

Dr. Whitebloom went on to point out the frequency of at-home testing required to ensure a patient’s safety – another important misconception involving this screening option.

“Stool-based tests need to be completed much more frequently… every 1-3 years based on the test,” he notes. “My concern with those is that the patients will think they’re fine for 10 years, and it doesn’t work that way.” 

Of course, there are better options available. The most popular screening method is one many of us are familiar with and one that famously saved the life of a U.S. president: A colonoscopy.

Colonoscopy: The Gold Standard

Colonoscopy has been the gold standard for detecting colorectal cancer for nearly three decades. Adults 45 and older are recommended to have an initial colonoscopy and then every 10 years, unless otherwise instructed by your doctor or GI specialist. Higher-risk individuals may require the procedure at a younger age or more often.

What makes it the gold standard? Well, a colonoscopy is the only exam that allows your gastroenterologist to both find and remove precancerous or cancerous polyps within the same procedure. It’s also been repeatedly proven as the most reliable way to prevent, detect, and possibly remove colorectal cancer. 

“There are no false positives associated with [colonoscopy], and most screenings are covered by insurance for free, without deductible,” according to Dr. Whitebloom. “As we mentioned earlier, the same cannot be said for some at-home testing kits, which have become increasingly popular in recent years for being less invasive and touted as ‘more convenient.’” 

However, colonoscopies have become more convenient in recent years too. In fact, making colonoscopies more comfortable and convenient is one of many areas of focus at US Digestive Health, the third largest gastroenterology practice in the country.

Dr. Whitebloom continued on to discuss other steps they’re taking to make the experience more comfortable altogether:

“We use carbon dioxide to help inflate the colon, which makes it very comfortable for the patient. Carbon dioxide, unlike room air, diffuses across the colon wall. So when a patient has their procedure, we inflate the bowel wall so we can visualize all the different areas of the colon…and the patient actually breathes [the carbon dioxide] out, and they have no abdominal discomfort at the completion of the procedure.” 

US Digestive Health uses carbon dioxide at all of their endoscopy centers to help provide an even better patient experience. But colonoscopies are also becoming more advanced as well.

US Digestive Health: The Platinum StandardSM

Colonoscopy is, of course, the gold standard when it comes to detecting and treating colorectal cancer and polyps. But at US Digestive Health, patients are provided with The Platinum StandardSM in colorectal cancer detection. This is thanks in part to their recent integration of GI GeniusTM, the latest, most powerful state-of-the-art AI screening technology available, which is proven to help detect colorectal polyps more effectively than unaided colonoscopy. 

Using enhanced imaging techniques and artificial intelligence, their GI specialists are uniquely equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary to work hand-in-hand with this technology. By combining the two, they’re able to provide patients with a more accurate colon screening than ever before.

For patients, that means being provided with:

  • Earlier detection of cancerous or precancerous polyps
  • More effective prevention and treatment of colon cancers than standard colonoscopies
  • AI–enhanced screening accuracy, providing a 99.7% sensitivity rate, the highest in the nation

As one of the first and largest installations of this cutting-edge technology, Dr. Whitebloom and USDH’s growing staff of over 200 GI specialists have had the unique opportunity to assist in making the technology even better than it was upon release.

“Our doctors are helping to train GI GeniusTM, so it’s learning from data that we’re gathering,” says Dr. Whitebloom. “This is a learning device, so it’s only getting better over time.”

Even now, Dr. Whitebloom says that studies have shown increases in the absolute detection rate by about 15% – a significant improvement upon an already successful method for detecting and preventing colorectal cancer. 

“I’ve been practicing gastroenterology for 30 years,” explains Dr. Whitebloom. “Thirty years ago, we didn’t even screen for colon cancer with colonoscopies. Now we have GI GeniusTM, which I believe will be the new standard.”

Now’s the Time: Schedule a Colonoscopy at US Digestive Health

If you’re 45 or older, talk to your doctor about getting a colonoscopy. And when you do, consider getting The Platinum StandardSM in colon cancer detection with the team at US Digestive Health.

Once you’re in contact with the USDH staff or one of their referring physicians, be sure to ask about fast-tracking your colonoscopy. Using their Open Access Program, patients can now get pre-approved and fast-track their colonoscopy appointment without a trip into one of their regional offices. 

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