Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. and more than half of over 80 million people over the age of 50 have never been screened.
But now there’s good news for everyone who dreads their mandatory colonoscopy. (Like me.)
It’s a new NONINVASIVE DNA colon cancer screening test that should be available to the general public in 20012!
David Ahlquist, M.D., Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist and lead researcher on the study is the one to thank…
He and his research team have found that this new stool DNA test can detect 100 percent of both stomach and colorectal cancers and also the common cancers above the colon — including pancreas, stomach, biliary and esophageal cancers.
That’s ONE noninvasive test for multi-organ digestive cancer screening!
Here are some numbers that will turn your head…
Stool DNA testing detected cancers at each organ site, including 65 percent of esophageal cancers, 62 percent of pancreatic cancers, and 75 percent of bile duct and gallbladder cancers. And, there’s more good news: early-stage cancers were just as likely to be detected as late-stage cancers.
Better yet, it can be done at home and mailed in for analysis… and it requires no medication or diet restrictions. (So, no more procrastinating everyone!)
“It’s very exciting to see this level of sensitivity for digestive cancer detection in our first look at this test application,” says Dr. Ahlquist, “Historically, we’ve approached cancer screening one organ at a time. Stool DNA testing could shift the strategy of cancer screening to multi-organ, whole-patient testing and could also open the door to early detection of cancers above the colon which are currently not screened. The potential impact of this evolution could be enormous.”
Before this scientific breakthrough, colonoscopy alternatives included:
1. Fecal Occult Blood Test which checks for hidden blood in the stool. Studies have shown that this test, when performed every 1 to 2 years in people ages 50 to 80, can help reduce the number of deaths due to colorectal cancer by 15 to 33 percent.
2. Sigmoidoscopy, examining the rectum and lower colon using a lighted instrument called a sigmoidoscope. During sigmoidoscopy, precancerous and cancerous growths in the rectum and lower colon can be found and either removed or biopsied. Studies suggest that regular screening with sigmoidoscopy after age 50 can help reduce the number of deaths from colorectal cancer. A thorough cleansing of the lower colon is necessary for this test.
3. Virtual Colonoscopy which uses special x-ray equipment to produce pictures of the colon and rectum. A computer then assembles these pictures into detailed images that can show polyps and other abnormalities. Because it is less invasive than standard colonoscopy and sedation is not needed, virtual colonoscopy may cause less discomfort and take less time to perform.
However, here’s the down side. Like the colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy, the same odious procedure of a thorough colon cleansing is necessary prior to the test. And the deal breaker is that it’s still unknown whether the virtual colonoscopy can reduce the number of deaths from colorectal cancer. (I’d say it’s a lose-lose.)
4. Double Contrast Barium Enema which requires enduring an enema with a barium solution followed by air being introduced into the colon. In this tortuous test, a series of x-rays of the entire colon and rectum are taken to outline the colon and rectum. Not only is it painful and medieval, research shows that the barium enema detects only 30 to 50 percent of the cancers versus the standard colonoscopy. Believe me, you don’t want to go here. (As a young girl, I was subjected to this barbaric process twice a year for 10 years. It was ghastly.)
5. Digital rectal exam, you know, the standard test of the old finger up the rectum which is part of your routine physical.
So there’s reason to rejoice.
As Steven Itzkowitz, M.D., principal investigator and Professor and Associate Director of Gastroenterology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine said: “For those individuals who are unwilling or unable to undergo colonoscopy, stool DNA testing offers a valuable and patient-friendly screening option. These results also underscore that as new markers and technologies are developed and validated, they can readily be incorporated into existing stool DNA tests to improve cancer detection and, ultimately, patient outcome.”
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