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A colonoscopy is the best method available to detect, diagnose and treat abnormalities within the colon. There are alternatives to this procedure, but these are quite limited and can only diagnose, not treat, potential problems within the colon. Options include:

Cologuard® or Fecal Immunochemical Testing (FIT)
This stool-DNA screening test is for adults 45 years or older at average risk for colon cancer and can be collected at home. This test is not for patients who have had certain types of polyps in the past, a history of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), certain hereditary syndromes, or a personal or family history of colorectal cancer. Cologuard is not a replacement for a colonoscopy in high-risk patients. Some patients with a positive test will have a completely normal colonoscopy exam; some will have polyps that can be removed; and a small percentage will have colon cancer. Any patient who has a positive Cologuard test should then schedule a diagnostic colonoscopy.

Barium enema
This is an X-ray exam of the colon. A small tube is passed through the rectum, and barium (a metallic substance) is instilled to coat the lining of the colon. X-rays are then taken to see the soft tissues of the colon. A colonoscopy still may be required to diagnose and treat an abnormality.

Flexible sigmoidoscopy
This is a limited examination with a scope only visualizing the last one-third of the colon. It is only recommended if known abnormalities are located in this area.

If you have any questions about these alternative options, talk to your primary care provider.

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