Millions of people who have been terrified of colon cancer screenings (especially colonoscopies) can now get the noninvasive home test that seems to be pretty acceptable for virtually anyone.
What it does is analyze stool for cancer-related DNA. Currently, there are too few people who are actually getting screened for colon cancer, a deadly disease with a dear outcome. While colonoscopies as well as other screening tests do save lives, doctors still aren’t sure whether the Cologuard also does the trick.
“It looks promising,”
Dr. Barnett Kramer, National Cancer Institute Screening Expert said, although mentioning that its impact on cancer risk and cancer survival have yet to be analyzed.
There are many patients exceptionally reserved when it comes to invasive medical procedures. As such, the Cologuard is a possible alternative, especially for those who have never been screened for colon cancer.
“He pulled out one of those really colorful brochures they have for all those procedures. [but when the doctor mentioned the new DNA test] I said, well, sign me up.”
said David Smith, 67-year-old patient who wasn’t very keen on barium enemas or scope examinations.
Last month, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved the test so that it can begin to be offered by prescription.
It works by detecting DNA that could signal cancer or precancerous growths when patients send the stool samples to laboratories. If the Cologuard comes back positive, the precancerous growths or possible tumors have to be assessed via colonoscopy. Polyps can be removed and cancers assessed.
Although Cologuard is being marketed as an alternative, the test hasn’t been directly tested against colonoscopies, which are the “gold standard” for colon cancer detection. Dr. Harold Hal Sox, Dartmouth professor who formerly headed the preventive services force considers Cologuard to be “pretty darn good” at detecting cancers, despite missing more pre-cancers than colonoscopies would.
“One could look at it and say that’s a glass half empty, half full,”
Dr. Kramer said about the test, which sadly offers more false alarms than colonoscopies. Cologuard correctly ruled out colon cancer in 87 percent of the time as opposed to 95 percent for other tests.
“You’d rather have more options than not, but I don’t think there’s enough data to declare this test superior to any other test [because of the false positives and lack of proof that it will save lives.] It definitely has some promise.”
Dr. Keneth Lin, Georgetown University family physician and former staff doctor for the preventive services task force, said.