Best FIT tests for colorectal cancer screening in 2021
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A fecal immunochemical test (FIT) is a diagnostic tool that can screen for colorectal cancer. It detects hidden blood in the stool, which indicates intestinal abnormalities that may be due to colorectal cancer. A positive FIT result will warrant further investigation. Early diagnosis of cancer usually leads to more effective treatment and better prospects.
In this article, we explain what a FIT test is, take a look at the pros and cons of different home tests, and answer some frequently asked questions.
An FIT test can detect colorectal cancer by checking for the presence of blood in the stool. This is one of the two main types of stool occult blood test. Blood vessels in colon tumors or polyps can bleed with the passage of stool, but the blood is not always visible to the naked eye. An FIT test uses antibodies to detect hidden blood in the stool.
The detection of blood indicates a positive test, but it does not necessarily mean that a person has colorectal cancer. Other conditions, such as hemorrhoids, benign polyps, and ulcers, can also cause blood in the stool. However, a positive test indicates that a person should contact their doctor for additional screening, such as a colonoscopy.
The FIT test is a simple, non-invasive test that people can do at home. A FIT home test kit will include instructions and a sterile container for the stool sample. Most kits will also include an envelope for sending the sample to a lab. A person does not have to restrict their diet or prepare in any other way before obtaining the sample.
Some people may want to have an FIT test as a routine screening because of their age. The Preventive Services Task Force recommends that adults between the ages of 45 and 75 get screened for colorectal cancer. Other people may want to have an FIT test because they have symptoms that could indicate colorectal cancer. These include:
- unexplained abdominal pain
- changes in bowel habits
- unexplained weight loss
The concept behind a FIT test is the same regardless of the manufacturer, although individual instructions and processing times may vary. Below are several home test kits that people can consider using.
Please note that the author of this article has not tried these products. All information is purely research based.
Everlywell states that only people aged 45 and over are eligible for this screening test. A doctor certified by the board of directors in the person’s condition will review all of the test results, which it takes approximately 3 days to receive. One of the advantages of Everlywell is that its system offers the results via a dashboard, which makes it easy for a person to share them with their doctor. The cost for the FIT test is $ 49 and the company accepts Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).
Learn more about Everlywell here.
LetsGetChecked delivers results in 2-5 days. Nurses are available to discuss positive test results with the person, whose doctor can also download the results. The test costs $ 69 for a single purchase, but someone looking for regular screening tests can save money by subscribing.
Learn more about LetsGetChecked here.
Pixel describes its FIT test kit as a “simpler and more affordable” alternative to colonoscopy. As with the tests above, an individual buys and pays for the Pixel FIT test online. An independent doctor will review and approve the test request, so no doctor visit is necessary. The company doesn’t say how long it takes to retrieve test results, and the price is higher than tests from other companies, at $ 89.
Pinnacle Biolabs’ second-generation FIT test delivers results in minutes, and the company claims it is the best-selling colon cancer screening test in North America. The main advantage of this test is that an individual does the entire test at home and does not need to send a sample in the mail. The cost of the test is $ 29.99. However, the company does not say if support is available for those who test positive.
A person can order this test online without needing a visit to the doctor. A doctor reviews the prescription to make sure it is appropriate. The cost for this test is $ 89 plus a doctor’s fee of $ 6, which makes it more expensive than other FIT tests.
In the United States, colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer. Although anyone can develop this type of cancer, the risk factors
- have excess body weight
- live a sedentary life
- eating a diet low in fruits and vegetables
- eating a diet low in fiber and high in fat
- consuming large amounts of processed meats
- drinking alcohol
Colorectal cancer tends to grow slowly, and detecting precancerous polyps or small lesions helps improve the outlook. Screening tests for colorectal cancer, such as an FIT test and colonoscopy, provide an early diagnosis.
Whether an individual has a colonoscopy or FIT test may depend on their assessed risk. The American Cancer Society (ACS) defines average risk as:
- no history of colorectal cancer or polyps
- no family history of colorectal cancer
- no history of Crohn’s disease or any form of inflammatory bowel disease
- no history of hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome
- no history of radiotherapy to the stomach
Anyone who obtains a positive FIT result should contact a doctor for further evaluation. While a positive test doesn’t necessarily mean a person has colorectal cancer, a doctor will discuss the next steps.
It is also important to contact a doctor if any symptoms appear that may indicate colorectal cancer. People who think they are at increased risk for colorectal cancer may also want to discuss regular screening with a doctor.
People who are considering ordering a FIT test to use at home may be wondering:
Is a FIT test accurate?
When to get tested for colorectal cancer at home
Colorectal cancer screening recommendations from the Multi-Society Task Force on Colorectal Cancer suggest that people at average risk for colorectal cancer begin screening at age 50. The ACS recommends starting a little younger, at the age of 45. If a person wants to have an FIT test instead of other screening options, they can discuss this with their doctor.
Can a FIT test diagnose colorectal cancer without a colonoscopy?
An FIT test does not diagnose colorectal cancer. Instead, it detects blood in the stool, which is not always visible to the naked eye. The presence of blood may indicate colorectal cancer or other intestinal complications. A positive FIT result warrants further investigation to diagnose the cause of the bleeding.
Does the insurance cover a FIT test?
Whether a person’s insurance covers a FIT test may depend on their age and individual coverage. For example, Medicare covers FIT once every 12 months for enrollees aged 50 and over. In some cases, a person may also use their HSA funds to cover costs.
An FIT test is a type of screening for colorectal cancer. The test detects blood in the stool that may not be visible to the naked eye. The presence of blood indicates the need for further evaluation to diagnose the cause of the bleeding. A positive result does not necessarily mean that a person has cancer, but detecting and treating this disease early usually improves a person’s outlook.
A variety of home FIT testing options are available for people to consider. People can do these tests at home, often without needing a visit to the doctor.