Testing for colorectal cancer

The Cayman Islands Cancer Society is observing March as Colorectal Cancer (CRC) Awareness Month.

Last week, we discussed screening
tests used to find colorectal cancer and polyps. This week we will discuss
tests that mainly find colorectal cancer, as well as prevention.

With the exception of the stool DNA
test; these tests are used to find small amounts of hidden (occult) blood in
the stool.

Most people find these tests are
easier because they can often be done at home. They are not ideal for finding
polyps, however.

A positive result on one of these
screening tests will likely mean you will need a test like a colonoscopy
(discussed last week). Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT): This is an at-home test
which consists of collecting three small specimens of faeces on chemically
treated cards. This test is able to pick up minute traces of blood which may be
too small to notice. FOBT should be done once a year starting at 50 years old
as well as a colonoscopy every 10 years.

Other tests are the Faecal
Immunochemical Test, the Immunochemical Faecal Occult Blood Test and Stool DNA

These tests are all alike in that
you need to collect samples of your stool to be sent to a lab for testing. They
differ in the exact way in which you collect the samples and in how the samples
are studied in the lab.

If you are having one of these
tests, the doctor or nurse will give you a kit with exact instructions on what
to do ahead of time (there may be some limits on what you can eat or drink or
medicines that you take) and how to collect the samples.

The Cayman Islands Cancer Society
offers and provides the FOBT kits free of charge.


Since the exact cause of colorectal
cancer is not known, there is no sure way to prevent it; however, there are
factors which may reduce your risk.

These are called protective; they
do not guarantee that you will not get colorectal cancer, but will lower you

They include: Eating a diet high in
vegetables and fibre, low in fat and low in red and processed meats. Diets high
in vegetables and fruits have been linked with a lower risk of colorectal
cancer; grilling or steaming food rather than frying or roasting; engaging in
regular physical activity; not smoking; limiting alcohol consumption;
maintaining a healthy weight; and getting screened regularly

To promote awareness in the Cayman
Islands, the Cancer Society is available for cancer awareness presentations to
companies and their employees. We are also available to visit schools, clubs
and churches delivering our cancer awareness presentations free of charge.

The Cayman Islands Cancer Society
is a non-profit organisation dedicated to preventing the development of cancer
through its education programs and screening initiatives as well as to
providing financial assistance to cancer patients and their families with
treatment related expenses.

The Society also offers counselling
and support to cancer patients and their families. The Society funds its
programmes through donations and fund-raising events. For more information on
the Society call 949-7618
or email [email protected].

Muniz Ferreira is the project coordinator at the Cayman Islands Cancer Society