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  • Understanding the Efficacy of the Cologuard Test for Colon Cancer Screening

Did you know that colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women? Early detection is key to increasing the chances of successful treatment. Thanks to advances in technology, there is now a non-invasive, at-home screening option available: the Cologuard test. Let’s explore this innovative approach to colon cancer screening and how it may benefit you.

Key Takeaways

  • Cologuard is a non-invasive stool DNA test for detecting colon and rectal cancer in individuals aged 45-75 with an average risk.

  • Colonoscopy is the most reliable but invasive, whereas FIT and Cologuard are non-invasive yet less precise. Cologuard being more accurate but not suitable for high risk patients.

  • Discuss accuracy & potential false results with healthcare provider to determine if it’s best screening method & be aware of limitations/risks associated with testing.

Cologuard Test Explained

Illustration of a person holding a Cologuard test kit

Colon cancer screening significantly aids in the prevention and detection of colorectal cancer. The Cologuard test is a non-invasive, at-home stool DNA test designed to detect colon and rectal cancer by identifying altered DNA and blood in the stool.

This screening test offers an accessible and convenient option for individuals looking to prevent colon cancer through early detection and the use of various screening tests.

The Science Behind Cologuard

The Cologuard test uses advanced technology to detect blood cells and analyze stool samples for microscopic blood and altered DNA, which may indicate the presence of cancer or pre-cancerous growths. As the colon sheds cells, the presence of atypical DNA and blood traces in the stool can be indicative of colorectal cancer or precancer tumors.

This multitarget stool DNA screening method can help identify colon cancer early, potentially preventing the development of gastrointestinal and liver disease by detecting colon cancer cells.

Usage and Eligibility

The recommended age range for Cologuard is 45-75 years, based on guidelines from the US Preventive Services Task Force and the American Cancer Society. These organizations suggest that screening people in this age group can be beneficial for detecting colorectal cancer and reducing the risk of colon cancer. Cologuard should be administered every 1 to 3 years and is suitable for individuals with average risk for colon and rectal cancer, including those with a family history of colon cancer.

Comparing Colon Cancer Screening Methods

There are several methods available for colon cancer screening, such as colonoscopy, Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT), and Cologuard. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages, with varying effectiveness, convenience, and limitations. Understanding the key differences between these options is necessary for choosing the most suitable screening method for you.

Pros and Cons of Each Method

Colonoscopy is recognized as the most reliable way to detect colon or rectal cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, and precancerous polyps, as it allows for both detection and removal of polyps in a single procedure. However, it is invasive, requires sedation, and may cause discomfort, making it less appealing for some individuals.

On the other hand, FIT is a non-invasive and convenient test that can be conducted at home and is more economical than colonoscopy. Despite its convenience, FIT is less precise than colonoscopy and Cologuard in identifying colorectal cancer and precancerous polyps.

Cologuard, like FIT, is also non-invasive and easy to use at home, but it is more accurate than FIT for detecting colorectal cancer and precancerous polyps. However, Cologuard is not recommended for high-risk individuals who have had colon cancer.

Recommendations for Choosing a Screening Method

Selecting the most appropriate colon cancer screening method depends on a variety of factors, including:

  • Age

  • Personal and family medical history

  • Risk factors

  • Preferences

  • Overall health and life expectancy

Family history plays a crucial role, as having a first-degree relative with colon cancer increases the risk of developing the disease. In fact, colon cancer family history is an important factor to consider. Personal preference is another important consideration, as research indicates that taking into account patient preferences can increase adherence to screening programs and enhance the overall effectiveness of colorectal cancer screening.

Consulting with a healthcare provider is necessary to determine the most suitable screening method based on individual factors.

The Cologuard Testing Process

Photo of a Cologuard test kit

Comprehending the Cologuard testing process is necessary for accurate results and a hassle-free experience. From obtaining the test kit to collecting and sending the stool sample for analysis, each step is designed to be user-friendly and convenient.

Obtaining the Test Kit

To obtain a Cologuard test kit, you must follow these steps:

  1. Receive a prescription from your healthcare provider.

  2. Fill out a form on our company’s website to generate a customized order form.

  3. Take the order form to your doctor for approval.

  4. Once approved, the Cologuard kit will be shipped directly to your designated address.

Note that the test is intended for patients aged 45 and above who are at average risk and typically meet the criteria for CRC screening.

Collecting and Sending the Sample

Illustration of collecting and preparing a stool sample

Collecting the stool sample for the Cologuard test is a simple process that can be completed in the privacy of your own home. To ensure accurate results, wait until a bowel movement is imminent before collecting the sample. Follow the instructions provided in the kit for the proper collection and packaging of the stool sample.

Once complete, use the prepaid shipping label to send the sample to the designated laboratory within 24 hours. The results will be delivered to your healthcare provider within two weeks of the laboratory receiving the sample.

Interpreting Cologuard Test Results

Photo of a person receiving Cologuard test results

Interpreting the results of a Cologuard test is a necessary step to understand your risk for colorectal cancer. There are two possible outcomes for a Cologuard test: normal (negative) and abnormal (positive), each with different implications for further testing and treatment.

Normal (Negative) Results

A normal (negative) Cologuard result indicates no signs of cancer or pre-cancerous growths. This means the test did not detect significant levels of DNA and/or hemoglobin biomarkers in the stool associated with these conditions. Upon receiving a normal (negative) Cologuard test result, it is advised to continue with regular colon cancer screening as recommended by your healthcare provider.

This may include regular Cologuard screenings every three years.

Abnormal (Positive) Results

An abnormal (positive) Cologuard result suggests the presence of cancer or pre-cancerous cells in the stool sample. If you receive a positive result, a follow-up colonoscopy is the recommended diagnostic step to further assess for colon cancer. Healthcare professionals recommend scheduling a follow-up colonoscopy six to nine months after a positive stool-based test.

Keep in mind that lifestyle factors and other health conditions may affect the accuracy of the test, so it is crucial to discuss the results with your healthcare provider for a comprehensive evaluation.

Addressing Concerns About Cologuard

Illustration of concerns and considerations related to Cologuard

While the Cologuard test provides a convenient and non-invasive option for colon cancer screening, addressing concerns related to its accuracy, false positives/negatives, and limitations is necessary. Understanding these concerns can help you make an informed decision about whether Cologuard is the right screening method for you.

Accuracy and False Positives/Negatives

Cologuard has a sensitivity of 92.3%, which is comparable to other screening methods such as OC FIT-CHEK (73.8%) and FOB Gold (96.7%). Cologuard has a false-positive rate of 13%. This amounts to roughly 1 in every 10 results. False positives can cause unnecessary anxiety and further testing, while false negatives may delay the detection and treatment of colon cancer.

Discussing the accuracy and potential for false results with your healthcare provider is necessary to determine if Cologuard is the best screening method for you.

Limitations and Risks

When considering Cologuard as a screening option, recognizing its limitations and potential risks is necessary. Here are some important facts to keep in mind:

  • Cologuard has a detection rate of 92% for colon cancer.

  • The specificity rate is up to 87%.

  • Prevention of colon cancer is better than identifying it once it has occurred.

  • It is recommended to use the test every three years.

Discussing these limitations and risks with your healthcare provider would assist you in making a decision about whether Cologuard is the right screening method for you.


In conclusion, the Cologuard test offers a non-invasive, convenient option for colon cancer screening, with the ability to detect altered DNA and blood in stool samples. Understanding the test’s accuracy, limitations, and potential risks is essential for making informed decisions about your colon cancer screening options. Consult with your healthcare provider to determine if Cologuard is the right choice for you, and continue with regular screening to stay proactive in the fight against colon cancer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is cologuard as good as a colonoscopy?

Cologuard is not a replacement for a colonoscopy – it can miss up to 8% of colon cancer and more than 50% of pre-cancerous polyps. A colonoscopy is the only test that both detects and prevents colon cancer, making it much more effective than Cologuard.

How is a cologuard test performed?

The Cologuard test is performed using an at-home kit that includes a container for a stool sample. The sample is then shipped to a lab for testing, which looks for microscopic blood in the stool and altered DNA. After collecting the sample as per the instructions in the Patient Guide, the collection kit is sent to a lab for testing and the results are sent to your healthcare provider.

What percentage of cologuard positive tests are cancer?

Cologuard has a 92% accuracy rate for detecting cancer, but only 42% accuracy for large precancerous polyps. Therefore, Cologuard positive tests are likely to have an accuracy rate of around 92% when it comes to cancer detection.

Why do doctors not like cologuard?

Doctors generally do not like Cologuard as the false-positive rate is relatively high (13%) and accuracy lower than a colonoscopy for detecting polyps of any size. Additionally, it results in more incorrect positive cancer diagnoses than FIT.

What is the recommended age range for Cologuard testing?

Cologuard testing is recommended for individuals aged 45-75 years.

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