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Cancer is slowly making its way as the country’s number one killer, even having made it there in 22 states. Lung and colorectal cancers are both the most common types of deadly cancer, as well as the most easily preventable. But colonoscopies aren’t easily stomached by everyone, so a team of scientists researched whether a stool test is effective in detecting colon cancer.
Spoiler – It is.
The blood stool test had been developed for quite a while now, and is even available for public use, although up until this point nobody knew its effectiveness in subsequent annual screenings.
Fecal immunochemical tests, as they known, work by allowing experts to study the stool samples and look for microscopic amounts of blood that are generally shed by colon tumors.
Despite their recognized efficiency during the first screening, experts still had a number of concerns regarding subsequent tests.
One of this would be that precancerous polyps and colon tumors would have to be quite large in order to drip blood into the person’s stool.
So, the Oakland, California team tracked the yearly blood stool samples of almost 325,000 patients for a duration of four years.
The first year showed 84.5% accuracy in detecting colon cancer, while subsequent annual tests were about 73%-78% accurate.
This is quite low compared to the colonoscopy’s almost 100% accuracy, however because of the blood stool test has to be performed yearly, while a colonoscopy has to be performed every ten years, blood stool tests might turn out to be more effective over-all.
Researchers are in fact sure that yearly tests with the less invasive technology could lead to a higher number of prevented deaths than the once every ten years colonoscopy screenings.
Of course, colonoscopies offer 10 years of protection, while a stool sample test only offers one, but for most people, the invasiveness and unpleasantness generated by the colonoscopy would rather be skipped in favor of yearly stool samples.
The only issue that would be raised by stool sample testing would be that the patient might skip the follow-up necessary colonoscopy in case the initial test turns out positive, in which case the detection would be for nothing.
It turns out that because of the unpleasantness of the procedure, 15% of people getting positive results during their stool sample screening still skipped their colonoscopies.
What the researchers suggest is to offer both options to patients when they come in for screening, as both are covered by insurance companies, and it might actually save more lives by offering a less invasive alternative.
Image source: Flickr