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At-home testing effective for colon cancer screening finds studies



Colon cancer is one of the most common cancers diagnosed in both men and women in the United States, but many people who are screened for it are not. New research suggests that there may be a solution to it: Home screening tests.

The review, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, examined 30 studies of annual home studies called FITs (fecal immunochemical test) and found that they are effective in screening for colorectal cancer in persons at average risk.

"There are different ways to get screened. One of them is colonoscopy and it is a good choice for many people," says CBS News chief correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook. "But for those people who don't want colonoscopy know there are alternatives. One of these alternatives is the FIT test and it's looking for invisible blood that is in the stool." Blood in the stool may be an early symptom of colon polyps or growth in the shape of the colon or rectum or of colon cancer.

Currently, only 65 percent of people who are screened for colorectal cancer do. LaPook, a gastroenterologist, says the hope is that access to less invasive and frightening tests will increase the screening rate.

"The main point here is that FIT seems to be a pretty good test for picking up colon cancer. It is a less good test to collect polon polyps, but it certainly does not matter," he said.

With colon cancer growing in younger people the American Cancer Society last year began recommending adult adults to start screening for 45 years instead of 50 .

According to the American Cancer Society, people are considered average risk if they do not have:

  • A personal history of colorectal cancer or certain types of polyps
  • A family history of colorectal cancer
  • A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease
  • A confirmed or suspected hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome, such as familial adenomatous polyposis or Lynch syndrome (hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer)
  • A personal story of getting radiation to the stomach or pelvic area to treat one former cancer

The researchers from the new report point out that while colonoscopy is considered to be the gold standard of colon cancer in the United States, in other countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada and Italy, it is performed only in persons with average risk without symptoms if their FIT results are positive.

Patrice Brown with the Colorectal Cancer Alliance reminds people to look for symptoms and knowledge of your risk factors.

Common symptoms are changes in bowel habits, changes in stool concentration, blood in stool and abdominal pain.

Risk factors include family history, obesity, inactivity, smoking, and a diet high in red and processed meat.

And since colorectal cancer is one of the most curable cancers, if detected early, Brown also encourages everyone to follow the recommendations for being screened.

"Our motto is the best test is the test being done regardless of method," she said.


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