Very few people look forward to their first colonoscopy once they reach 45 years old, the age at which colon cancer screening should begin for people at average risk. That is one of the reasons Cologuard was developed. It is a completely non-invasive way to screen for colon cancer. It is important to note that it is not for everyone, you truly must be at average risk.
If you have a family history of colon cancer or polyps, a personal history of polyps or cancer, symptoms of colon cancer, or other numbers of other conditions, Cologuard may not be appropriate for you.
If Cologuard is appropriate for you, your doctor can prescribe it. The only thing it requires from you is the somewhat awkward act of pooping into a container and sending it back to the company via UPS. If you are interested in the details, they can be found in the accompanying video or on the Cologuard website, which can be found here.
There are a couple of important steps though that I want to highlight.
First, it is important that you do not destroy the box that the test arrives in. That is the same box that is necessary to ship the sample back. It is also important to fill out and attach the sample labels on both the large specimen container and a smaller specimen container that you will be shipping back.
Finally, the most important thing is that you time your collection so that you can contact UPS and have it on its way back to the testing facility within 24 hours. It needs to reach the Cologuard company within four days. If you collect your specimen on a weekend or holiday and cannot get UPS to pick it up in time, it may render the test invalid.
Cologuard is considered very effective at screening for colon cancer. It does it in several different ways. The most basic is simply by looking for blood in the sample. Beyond that, it does a far more scientifically detailed analysis of your stool looking for DNA evidence of cancer cells.
I should emphasize that if your Cologuard test is found to be abnormal, that does not mean you have cancer, it just means that you need further testing. It is a screening test and not considered diagnostic. If it is abnormal, you will require a colonoscopy for a more detailed evaluation of your colon. There has been an update to coverage for a colonoscopy following an abnormal Cologuard.
As of the start of this year, all Affordable Care Act (ACA) compliant insurances are required to cover a follow-up colonoscopy. This covers most insurances, but if your insurance is exempted under the ACA, the follow-up colonoscopy may not be fully covered.
In short, Cologuard is a simple test that can help people who are reluctant to have a colonoscopy get screened for colon cancer. It really could be a lifesaving alternative.