Answers to Common Cancer Prevention Questions

Premier Health providers answer frequently asked questions about cancer prevention.

Explain the different types of colon cancer screening tests – fecal immunochemical test, fecal occult test, and colonoscopy.

Dr. Kenneth Reed discusses different types of colon cancer screening tests. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

Explain the different types of colon cancer screening tests – fecal immunochemical test, fecal occult test, and colonoscopy.

The gold standard for colon cancer screening is the colonoscopy. It's a very good test, because you can prevent colon cancer as well as diagnose colon cancer. If someone has a polyp, then you can basically find that, remove that and prevent the disease. If you find an early stage cancer, then again you can find it, mark it, know where it's at. There are some other tests including a FIT test: that is, a stool card that looks for things such as blood. It also looks for different markers that come off of tumors or advanced polyps. It's not the gold standard because it's not as specific and sensitive as a colonoscopy, but again, it is a way of screening for colonoscopy. The fecal test, or the old test where you're just looking for blood, that's again a very old test. It has kind of fallen out of favor because it is not very specific or sensitive for colon cancer screening.


There are a variety of options available to screen for colon cancer.

Three of those options, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), include:

  • Colonoscopy – During this test, a doctor uses a long, thin, flexible, lighted tube to check inside your rectum and your entire colon for polyps or cancer. Polyps and even some cancers can be removed during the screening, if they’re found. A colonoscopy is also used as a follow-up test to other screenings if anything abnormal is found. Typically, if you are 50 or older, you should have a colonoscopy every 10 years.
  • Fecal immunochemical test – Known as the FIT, this test uses antibodies to find blood in your stool sample. This test mainly finds cancer, not polyps. It should be done annually.
  • Fecal occult test – With this screening, a chemical is used to test your stool sample to check if any blood is present. It mainly finds cancer, not polyps. Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians say this is an older test that is not used as often as others because it can be less sensitive than other colon cancer screenings.

For more information about these and other colon cancer screenings, talk with your doctor.

Learn more:

Source: Susan Davis-Brown, MD, Brookville Family Care; Dori Thompson, MD, Springboro Family Medicine; Marcus Washington, MD, Premier Health Family Medicine; Chandan Gupta, MD, Monroe Medical Center; Joshua Ordway, MD, Franklin Family Practice; Mark Ringle, MD, Beavercreek Family Physicians; Douglas Gaker, MD, Premier Urology Center; J. Scott Wilcher, MD, North Dayton Surgeons; Todd Hicks, Premier Plastic Surgeons; Geetha Ambalavanan, MD, Fairborn Medical Center; Kenneth Reed, DO, Premier Gastroenterology Specialists; Thomas Heck, MD, Gem City Surgical Breast Cancer Center

Schedule an appointment

To schedule an appointment with a primary care provider, call (866) 608-FIND(866) 608-FIND or complete the form below to receive a call from our scheduling department to make an appointment.