Colorectal. Colonoscopy. Cancer.
The very words can strike fear in your heart and have you sprinting as fast as you can away from your physician’s office.
A colonoscopy is the gold-standard test to screen for colon cancer, and for good reason. It’s extremely effective at detecting both cancer and precancerous growths (polyps), and doctors can even remove suspicious growths during the procedure.
However, many people aren’t keen on getting a colonoscopy. The prospect of “cleaning out” their system with specialty drinks the day before, staying home from work, and the rather invasive nature of the procedure are enough to make many postpone their colonoscopies indefinitely. The result? One in three adults lack adequate protection from colon cancer.
Because colorectal cancer is the second deadliest cancer in America, doctors and researchers have been working to come up with alternative methods of screening.
You may have heard of Cologuard, a test that detects the presence of cancer through your stool. The company has made their test as convenient as possible, but many people still don’t want to handle stool and send it through the mail.
A more recent development in colorectal cancer screening is Guardant Health’s Shield test. In this post, we’ll look at what Guardant Shield is, how it works, and why this simple test could provide the protection that so many need from colorectal cancer.
How Is Guardant Health’s Shield Test Different?
The major difference can be summed up in two words: it’s easy. The Shield test is a simple blood test, so the process is no different from any other blood test. You show up to the office, we draw the blood, and you’re done.
The test doesn’t require any special prep, laxatives, specialist appointments, or recovery time. There is no package to put in the mail. You just walk out of the office with a Band-Aid.
The Shield test examines your blood for the presence of proteins and DNA shed by cancerous and pre-cancerous tumors. It can detect this circulating tumor DNA quite early, when the cancer is most treatable, greatly improving a person’s options and odds of survival. The five-year survival rate for people who catch colorectal cancer in the earliest stage, for example, is 91%, compared to just 14% for those who discover in its latest stage.
Why do we care so much about this particular cancer screening? It’s because 75% of people who die from colorectal cancers aren’t up to date on their screening. Since colon cancer is typically treatable with a high survival rate when caught early, a tool that helps people maintain regular screenings can make an enormous difference in health outcomes.
Who Should Be Screened Using Guardant’s Shield Test?
Guardant’s Shield test is a screening option for anyone over the age of 45 with an average risk of colorectal cancer. That includes most people, with only a few exceptions.
The Shield test is not for those with elevated colorectal cancer risk factors, such as:
- Family history of colon cancer
- Personal history of polyps
- Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis)
- Certain genetic syndromes that increase risk
- History of radiation treatment to the abdomen or pelvis
If you’re older than 45 with none of the above risk factors and in relatively good health, but you’re dreading a colonoscopy or don’t intend to get one, then Guardant’s Shield test could be a better option for you.
How to Get Screened With Guardant’s Shield Test
If you’re a member of Griffin Concierge Medical, you and your physician will discuss your risk factors and determine whether you’re a good candidate for the Shield test.
If you’re not a member of GCM, you can still speak to your physician about the test. Because the Shield test is relatively new, not all doctor’s offices will be familiar with the test. You or your doctor can visit the Shield website to learn more about the company and their screening tests.
It was a GCM member who first introduced us to the Shield test. We looked into it, did our research, and can now provide this innovative screening option for our entire practice. We’re always looking to improve and innovate, and we appreciate our members bringing groundbreaking technologies like this one to our attention!
Whatever You Do, Get Screened
Colorectal cancer isn’t something anybody wants to worry about. Regular screening allows you to catch the disease earlier and achieve a much better health outcome.
Guardant’s Shield test could be a good screening option. But if you can’t get the Shield test, it’s still incredibly important to get screened. Colonoscopies and Cologuard are valuable methods of screening and early detection, and they could save your life.