Colon cancer is one of the most fatal cancers today. This is due to the fact that it is often detected late as well as it being difficult to treat. But now there is a test that could help detect colon cancer early.

CBS news reports on the new DNA test.

The Food and Drug Administration has actually approved of a DNA test that will help identify tumors and growths using the patient’s DNA.

How does the test work?

It is called The Cologuard test and it comes from Exact Sciences. The test detects irregular mutations in stool samples, which can be an early warning sign of cancer. Patients who test positive for the mutations should undergo a colonoscopy to make sure the results are error proof. The test includes utilizing a collection kit to take a stool sample at home. Then it gets shipped to a lab that looks for DNA and blood that may suggest something is amiss or a clear problem. Numerous people may find it less difficult to take the test than go through a painful colonoscopy.

Physicians have used stool tests for a long time to search for hidden blood that can be a possible sign of tumors and/or precancerous polyps. However, company studies of Cologuard showed that it was better than stool tests. Why? Because it was more precise at finding cancerous tumors and worrisome polyps than traditional stool blood tests have been.

“Cologuard detected 92 percent of colon cancers and 42 percent of advanced polyps in a study of 10,000 patients, while traditional blood screening only detected 74 percent of cancers and 24 percent of advanced polyps,” according to CBS.

Dr. Itzkowitz, from Mount Sinai Medical School, told CBS that for a non-invasive test the Cologuard’s findings were extremely good in terms of accuracy. He was the lead researcher of the study.

Dr. Jon Lapook, CBS’ chief medical correspondent, also endorsed the test. He said, “It's a great new option I think.” But he also said it is not perfect yet so additional tests may be needed in confirming cancer cases. He was not involved in the study.

The new FDA approval of the test has the potential to reshuffle existing medical practices. But FDA officials did say on Monday that DNA-based stool screening has not been advocated by federal medical advisers who set screening guidelines, partially due to the high cost of the test which is $599 per person.

How often should people be getting tested for colon cancer?

CBS reports, “Current federal guidelines recommend traditional stool tests every year and a colonoscopy every 10 years for patients between ages 50 and 75. A colonoscopy is the current method for spotting colon cancer but many adults are reluctant to undergo the invasive procedure, which requires sedation as doctors probe the colon with a camera-fitted endoscope.”

Federal officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the facility that runs the federal health programs for seniors and the poor, said they are going to cover the new test once every three years for people between the ages of 50 to 85 who have an average risk of getting colon cancer. The plan is not set in stone yet; the agency will take feedback on its coverage proposal before making it official.

Why is it so important to get tested for colorectal cancer?

CBS explains, “Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., with over 50,000 deaths expected this year, according to the American Cancer Society. Deaths from the disease have been declining for more than two decades, a development attributed to increased screening. Still, only about 60 percent of people between ages 50 to 75 have had the recommended tests.”

Fox news reports on what dangers colonoscopies pose which makes the new test even more appealing. “After age 75, recurrences of colon cancer are rare and the risks of repeated colonoscopies may outweigh the benefits, according to new research. People with colorectal cancer or high-risk polyps usually undergo repeat colonoscopies every few years to make sure the disease hasn't recurred,” according to Fox.

A new study showed that so much testing for elderly patients is probably superfluous. These researchers found that recurrent colorectal cancer in the older population was much less likely after age 75. They also noticed that the danger of post-procedure hospitalization following a surveillance colonoscopy increased largely after the age of 75 when compared to younger patients. This was the case even after adjusting for the effects of chronic illnesses and other diseases.

How many people were studied?

Are the results comprehensive? The researchers included a group of nearly 5,000 people. All of them were over age 75 “And all had a history of colorectal cancer or suspicious polyps who had colonoscopies between 2001 and 2010. They compared this group to almost 23,000 younger patients aged 50 to 74 with similar histories, who underwent surveillance colonoscopies during the same period. Of a total 373 colon cancers detected over the nine-year period, only five were found among the older patients. But hospitalization within 30 days after the colonoscopy was much more common in the elderly group, 527 of whom were hospitalized compared to 184 of the younger patients,” according to Fox.

The study showed that as age increased, hospitalizations became more common. These findings give more reason for patients to try the new Cologuard test in place of current tests.

To learn more about colonoscopies, watch the video below...


Gerry Oginski
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