Banner hopes to increase early colon cancer detection with new, at-home test

LOVELAND, Colo. – Colonoscopies are the most effective method available today to test for colon cancer. Yet the invasive nature of the screening causes many people to put off or to skip the test entirely. Banner Health is now offering those individuals another screening option.  

Cologuard, now available at all Banner Health clinics throughout Northern Colorado, is a noninvasive colon cancer screening test that patients can do at home. The test requires patients to take a sample of their poop, add a liquid preservative to it, seal it inside a container that comes with the kit, and ship it to a laboratory.  Results are then sent to the physician who shares them with the patient. 

“What’s great about Cologuard is there’s no harm or risk to the patient,” explained Charles “Scott” Harrod, MD, an internal medicine physician with Banner Medical Group. “We’re hoping this test helps with early detection of colon cancer, which continues to be a pervasive problem.” 

According to a February report by the American Cancer Society, colon cancer among Millennials has doubled compared to their parents’ generation. While family history is the number one risk factor, eating processed meats, smoking and obesity may also be contributors.

Colon cancer can sometimes go unnoticed but symptoms may include bleeding from the rectum, blood in the stool, stomach cramps, change in stool shape, diarrhea or constipation as well as a change in bathroom habits, unintended weight loss and a feeling that you need to have a bowel movement which continues even after the movement.  

As the third most commonly diagnosed cancer nationally, colonoscopies remain the gold standard to find colon cancer, Harrod says. Colonoscopy screenings, which typically start at age 50 for people at average risk and then once every 10 years after that, are invasive procedures with extensive preparation, planning and cost associated with them. 

A physician puts a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and lens into the patient’s anus. The image is displayed on a screen and the physician searches through the patient’s colon to identify abnormal growths that may be cancer or could lead to cancer.  

Cologuard tests for the presence of blood in the stool sample and DNA changes in cells lining the colon that may indicate the presence of cancer. It was approved by the Federal Drug Administration in August 2014.  For patients who don’t have a first-degree family member with colon cancer but have other risk factors, Cologuard may be a good option, Harrod said.

Banner Medical Group (BMG), Banner Health's employed physician group, is a team of more than 1,300 physicians and more than 3,500 total employees located in Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada and Wyoming. BMG doctors and other providers care for patients in a variety of care settings. BMG primary care providers like pediatricians, internists, family medicine physicians and obstetrician/gynecologists staff Banner Health Clinics and Banner Health Centers.