New home test targets colon cancer
Screening for colon cancer just got easier.
People who have avoided colon cancer screenings can now receive a new home test that is noninvasive and requires no preparation. Cologuard is now available by prescription at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, and will be an option nationwide soon.
“It’s an exciting new test that adds another option for patients to get screened for colon cancer,” says Dr. Sonia Godambe, gastroenterologist on staff at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill. “Any test that gets more people to get screened adds value, but the true value of this test as a screening tool remains to be seen.”
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. and the fourth worldwide, according to the American Cancer Society. More than 143,000 new cases and 52,000 deaths from the disease area expected this year in the U.S.
Cologuard is the first test to look for cancer-related DNA in stool for people at an average risk to develop colon cancer. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in August, and can be prescribed at the request of the patient.
People send a stool sample to a lab where it is tested, and then follow up with their physician to discuss the results and whether further testing is needed. It costs $599 from Exact Sciences Corp., and is covered by Medicare. Private insurers aren’t covering it yet.
In a study of 10,000 people, Cologuard found 92 percent of colorectal cancers. It correctly ruled out colon cancer 87 percent of the time.
“Some early studies show a high rate of false positive when compared to older testing,” Dr. Godambe says. “Also, while it has been approved by Medicare, the cost effectiveness of the test is another factor. As proposed, the test is done every three years at a cost that may be equivalent or less than a colonoscopy, which if normal, would be good for 10 years.”
Current national guidelines set by the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) recommend that every person 50-years-old and older should have a colonoscopy every 10 years. The African-American demographic is recommended to start at age 45.
For a person with a family history of colorectal cancer, meaning that they are one line away on a family tree from someone who has had it, rule of thumb is to get screened at age 50 or 10 years within the date the family member was diagnosed.
Only about 60 percent of people who should be getting colonoscopies are screened.
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