Could at-home colon screening be coming soon?
While it hasn’t gotten FDA approval, the Cologuard stool screening test is showing sensitivity of more than 90 percent in the detection of colorectal cancer, according to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine, and utilizes not only blood testing, but DNA analysis as well—the latter being a feature not found in other fecal exams. Those alternative tests, such as the fecal immunochemical test, or FIT, use blood detected in stool to root out cancer. For their study, researchers looked at almost 10,000 men and women 50 and older who were at average risk of developing colon cancer and screened them for colon cancer and precancerous growths via three avenues—colonoscopy, FIT and the Cologuard test—at sites across the United States and Canada. Colonoscopy determined 65 patients had colon cancer; the Cologuard test detected 60 of those 65 cases, while the FIT found 48 of those cancers (a sensitivity of 74 percent). The Cologuard test found 42 percent of advanced precancerous lesions and 69 percent of very high-risk lesions, while the FIT found about 24 percent and 46 percent, respectively. The downside? The DNA test had more false positives, or suggested cancer was present when it wasn’t, compared with the other screening methods. More research is needed, but if eventually approved by the FDA, the option of at-home testing could be a beneficial addition to the lineup of colon cancer screening methods. One-third of Americans don’t get regular colonoscopy screenings (recommended every 10 years starting at age 50 for those at average risk of colorectal cancer). The study was funded by the makers of Cologuard.