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Do You Need A Prescription For an At Home Colon Cancer Tests?

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    At home colon cancer tests are a type of screening test that can help detect abnormalities in stool samples that may indicate precancerous or cancerous conditions in the colon. The American Cancer Society has stated that recently the rates of colorectal cancer in adults has increased steadily in the past 15 years. This rise in colon cancer rates has prompted both the American Cancer Society and United States Preventive Task Force to lower the recommended age for screening to 45 years of age in their screening guidelines. For those patients at an average risk for colorectal cancer, at home screening tests are a preferred option over the more invasive colonoscopy that requires an intense bowel preparation.

    These at home colon cancer tests are typically available by prescription only. However, there are tests that are available for you to purchase over the counter that test for colon cancer. These tests are inexpensive and typically give you a result immediately (like a pregnancy test).

      Do You Need A Prescription For an At Home Colon Cancer Tests?

    Most physicians will be open to an at home colon cancer test if you are at an average or low risk for colon cancer

    These at home colon cancer tests are typically available by prescription only. However, there are tests that are available for you to purchase over the counter that test for colon cancer. These tests are inexpensive and typically give you a result immediately (like a pregnancy test). Keep in mind that these tests are not approved by the FDA as an official screening test and your doctor will probably recommend that you take an approved at home screening test. People who are interested in getting an at home colon cancer test can talk to their primary care providers to discuss if the test is appropriate for them and which one to choose. 

    Question: Do all of them require a prescription? 

    Answer:

    All three at home colon cancer tests will typically require you to get a prescription. There are three screening tests that are typically prescribed to patients eligible for at home screening. These include:

    Fecal immunochemical test (FIT).  This test uses antibodies that specifically react with a blood protein in the stool. Physicians typically order the test to be repeated annually. 

    Guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT). Conducted yearly, the gFOBT uses a chemical (guaiac) to detect microscopic amounts of blood in the stool. 

    Stool DNA test (also known as FIT-DNA test). The most current stool test combines the FIT test with a test that can detect abnormally mutated DNA in the stool. Unlike the FIT and gFOBT, a stool DNA test can be repeated every three years if no abnormalities are found.

    Question: Who can provide a prescription? 

    Answer:

    The federally-approved (FDA) types of at home screening tests for colon cancer are the FIT, FOBT, and the FIT-DNA or Cologuard. All three screening tests typically are prescribed by a primary healthcare provider or physician to their patients when they reach the screening age of at least 45 years of age.

    The federally-approved (FDA) types of at home screening tests for colon cancer are the FIT, FOBT, and the FIT-DNA or Cologuard. All three screening tests typically are prescribed by a primary healthcare provider or physician to their patients when they reach the screening age of at least 45 years of age. If you are interested in taking one of the three tests approved by the FDA you can ask your physician to help you decide which one is the best fit for you. Once you receive the prescription, you can order the kit or one will be provided by the prescribing physician.

    There are virtual options for you to make an appointment with a physician in order to get a prescription for these colon cancer screening tests. This means that you can contact a physician by telephone or virtually (via a computer or mobile device). These services are run by physicians who want to reach patients in rural communities and those that are home-bound. Generally, you will receive a prescription after a virtual or telephone appointed with a licensed physician. 

    The Second Generation™ FIT is one test that you can purchase online through Pinnacle Labs without a prescription. You are able to take this test without a prescription and interpret the results for yourself in the comfort of your own home. If you receive a positive result, make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible to rule out the cause of the positive result. 

    Question: Does your prescribing doctor receive and communicate results?

    Answer:

    Typically, the physician who prescribed the test will receive and then communicate with you directly to discuss the results. In these cases, the lab will send the results of your test directly to your physician who will contact you to explain what they mean. This discussion usually occurs during a follow-up appointment. If your doctor suspects that you may have received a false positive or false negative test you will probably be asked to repeat the test. 

    Each test is unique but each share in common that if you receive a positive result, your physician will most likely ask you to schedule a colonoscopy as follows:

    gFOBT 

    • Negative result. If there is no blood test detected in your stool sample your fecal occult blood test is negative. Your doctor may recommend that you repeat the test every year if you are at risk for colon cancer. 
    • Positive result. Blood detected in the stool sample will cause the fecal occult blood test to return to you with a positive result. In this case, your physician will most likely advise you to schedule a colonoscopy to find the source of bleeding.

    FIT

    • Negative result. If there is no blood test detected in your stool sample your fecal immunochemical test is considered negative. Your doctor may recommend that you repeat the test every year if you are at an average risk for colon cancer. 
    • Positive result. A positive result means that you have abnormal bleeding somewhere in your colon. Remember that several diseases can cause abnormal bleeding in your colon, including colon cancer, polyps, and hemorrhoids. In this case, your physician will most likely advise you to schedule a colonoscopy to find the source of bleeding.

    Cologuard or FIT-DNA

    • Positive result. This indicated that the test detected blood in the stool or abnormal DNA in the colon lining cells shed in the sample. A positive finding could mean that there are precancerous or cancerous cells found in the sample. Some positive cases are the result of a false positive, which means there is no cancer or precancer present. All positive results are typically followed up by a colonoscopy. 
    • Negative result. A negative result indicates that there was no abnormal DNA or stool detected in the stool sample. One should be aware, however, that this can be caused by a false negative result, which means cancer or precancerous cells are present but were not detected. Talk to your healthcare provider if you want further testing or have any questions about the results.
    • No result obtained. In this case, the lab was unable to produce a result from the sample that was provided. You may need to repeat the test. Ask your physician to see what the next steps hold. 

    References

    Cancer Care Ontario Writing Staff.  (2021). Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) Instructions. Retrieved from Cancer Care Ontario: https://www.cancercareontario.ca/en/types-of-cancer/colorectal/screening/fit-instructions

    Cancer Care Ontario Writing Staff.  (2021). FIT Instructions Pamphlet. Retrieved from Cancer Care Ontario: https://www.cancercareontario.ca/sites/ccocancercare/files/assets/FITKitInstructions.pdf

    Exact Sciences Writing Staff. (2020, July 07). Cologuard™ patient guide. Retrieved from Cologuard: https://www.cologuard.com/colon-cancer-screening-support-resources

    Kaur, K., & Adamski, J. J. (2020, August 16). Fecal Occult Blood Test. Retrieved from StatPearls: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537138/

    Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. (2020, August 04). How to do a fecal occult blood test (FOBT). Retrieved from MSKCC: https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/patient-education/fecal-occult-blood-test

    U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2020, July 31). Fecal occult blood test (FOBT). Retrieved from MedlinePlus: https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/fecal-occult-blood-test-fobt/

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