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Measuring the effectiveness of at-home colon cancer screenings

Measuring the effectiveness of at-home colon cancer screenings
Measuring the effectiveness of at-home colon cancer screenings 03:17

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Are at-home colon cancer screenings tests effective? KDKA's John Shumway went looking for answers as the test kits are gaining more and more popularity.

When colon cancer took the life of superhero star Chadwick Boseman at just 43 years old, it was a wakeup call to a generation that colon cancer is not just a malady of the old.

Dr. Robert Schoen, gastroenterologist with UPMC praises the home test kits.

"If you offer people the opportunity to do a stool test or have a colonoscopy, more people will actually comply with the stool test," Dr. Schoen said.

While they are not a substitute for a colonoscopy, it still is a good thing that the patient is getting tested.

"Those tests have shown that they reduce colorectal cancer incidence and mortality," Dr. Schoen said.

A positive test from an at-home kit reveals the presence of blood, not a diagnosis of cancer.

Dr. Schoen says that the follow-up is pretty straightforward, saying that if you get a positive test from an at-home kit, the next step is to get a colonoscopy.

In the colonoscopy, cancer is either found or ruled out.

"Not only are we looking for early cancer, we're looking for the precursors and we can prevent you from even getting the disease and there's no better than that," Dr. Schoen said,

Dr. Schoen says bypass the at-home test and go straight to a colonoscopy if you have symptoms of rectal bleeding, blood in your stool, abdominal pain, or a history of a parent with early colon cancer.

For those not having any symptoms, the at-home test may be preferable. You do need a prescription from your doctor.

Dr. Schoen says once you hit the age of 45, it's time to get a test, and that every year you wait, your risk increases.

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommends every from age 45 to 75 be tested, with the frequency based on a conversation with your doctor. 

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