Yes, there are alternative methods to examine the colon, but none are considered more accurate at colon cancer and polyp detection than colonoscopy. They include:
- A flexible sigmoidoscopy and a barium enema (an x-ray examination of the colon after it has been distended by barium, a contrast agent, following a preparation with a Fleet® Enema or Fleet® Phospho-soda).
- Computerized tomography (CT), a test that takes pictures of the inside of the colon, can also be done. This is called CT colography or “virtual colonoscopy”. Like conventional colonoscopy, this test requires a full preparation the day before the exam (liquids and possibly enemas). This test, however, involves radiation exposure which may increase your long term risk of development of cancer.
If any of the above tests suggest the presence of polyps or cancer, a conventional colonoscopy (and a second preparation) will be required.
Fecal Occult Blood Testing (FOBT), is a test whereby stool is examined for minute amounts of blood loss (possibly from polyps or cancer) by way of a chemical reaction resulting in a color change. While FOBT is not a test to examine the colon, it is recommended annually to individuals over age 50. If occult blood is found in the stool, a follow up colonoscopy will be necessary.
For colon cancer screening, it should be noted that colonoscopy has the highest sensitivity and is the only test that is both diagnostic and therapeutic.