Even though colon cancer kills close to 60,000 Americans and is the second deadliest form of cancer, only one third of people 50 and over receive colon cancer screening.
A major reason is fear and embarrassment over invasive tests like colonoscopies, where a five-foot tube is inserted into the rectum.
CBS 2s Paul Moniz reports on a promising new test to detect colon cancer which, unlike traditional diagnostic procedures, is painless, non-invasive and can be done at home. This at-home stool kit, now being tested by the Mayo Clinic and Exact Labs, could also dramatically improve the survival rate for this deadly disease.
"The test can be done in the privacy of your home," says Dr. David Ahlquist, a gastroenterologist and lead researcher for the Mayo Clinic study. "The stool sample is collected, mailed or shipped to the lab without the patient going to the health care center."
The test works by detecting abnormal DNA shed by pre-cancerous or cancerous polyps. Of the 61 patients who participated in the study, the test found 91% of the cancers and 73% of pre-cancerous polyps.
While slightly less effective than colonoscopy, preliminary tests suggest the DNA stool test is more accurate than the current stool test or even sigmoidoscopy, which examines just a portion of the colon.
"We believe this test has the power to reduce the number of lives lost from this very common malignancy and change the way we screen colon cancer," says Dr. Ahlquist.
The DNA test still has to undergo FDA trials before it can be available to the public. That could take two or three years. But this is a promising advance, and not just because of convenience.
A colonoscopy can cost $1200 to $2000 and is often not covered by insurance. The DNA test is expected to cost $150 or less.
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