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Real Men Wear Gowns: 'FIT test' for colon screening

A 'FIT' test offers a convenient option to determine if you're at risk for colon cancer.

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — If there's one thing we know from the Real Men Wear Gowns campaign, it's that men aren't the most diligent when it comes to getting a checkup.

That lack of diligence increases exponentially when it comes to certain exams.

"I think there's a lot of stigma around colon cancer screening with the preparation - to the test itself," said Greg Fedio, Clinical Project Manager at Park Nicollet.

Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the country, so it can't be ignored. That's where people like Fedio come in. 

"Our initiatives are to raise the awareness of the impact of this disease and the other options of treatment that aren't as invasive as a colonoscopy," he said. 

RELATED: Real Men Wear Gowns: Prostate health

One of those options to help detect colon cancer is called a FIT test.

FIT stands for fecal immunochemical test. 

"Basically, it's a non-invasive stool sample. A patient does it in the comfort of their bathroom. They send it back to our labs," Fedio said. "If it's a negative test we will just send you another test next year. So, it's a yearly test."

If the FIT test is positive, the patient needs a colonoscopy. 

The FIT test is a simple test, but you have to meet a few requirements. You can't have a personal history of colon polyps or gastrointestinal issues, and there can't be a family history of colon cancer. 

So, you've decided to take the test - how do you get the kit?

"For a FIT test you really do need to go to your health care provider to access one of those kits. It's not just something you can go to the store and purchase," Fedio said. 

The bottom line is if you're 50, it's time to get screened for colon cancer. For some, an earlier screening is recommended.

"We do recommend that African Americans and Native Americans, because they are more susceptible to the disease, do get screened for the disease starting at the age of 45," Fedio said. 

In 2017, Health Partners and Park Nicollet sent out 2,500 kits and had about a 24 percent return rate, which identified 40 or so positive tests. 

The good news is that the vast majority of those patients took it a step further and completed their colonoscopies.

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