Health news: FDA approves at-home colon cancer test

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. --The FDA has approved a non-invasive, "at-home" test for colon cancer.

Both testing for and talking about colon cancer can be a little uncomfortable. But a newly approved test could help make it a little less invasive to tackle this deadly disease.

"It is actually the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States," Dr. Erkut Borazanci tells us. "And also the third highest death rate of cancers in the United States.“

But Borazanci, a doctor at Scottsdale Healthcare's Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center, says if caught early, survival rates for colorectal cancer are quite high. “The five-year survival that we have been measuring over the last several years appears to be between 70 percent to 90 percent, if caught in the early stages."

Dr. Borazanci says the most complete method for catching it is a colonoscopy, during which doctors can see the entire colon. They can also remove and biopsy polyps during that procedure.

But this month, the FDA approved what is basically a home test that has proved effective at spotting possible problems. "The test comes in a kit, and you place a (stool) sample in the kit, and then you mail it out. And then the lab testing gets it done for you; there is no home lab work going on.”

The test is called Cologuard. There are similar tests, but they look for blood in the samples.
This is different. “What the Cologuard does is look for the presence of DNA mutations and so it is a very, very exciting and newer way of looking at the presence of cancer in your body,” Dr. Borazanci tells us.

When the lab tests come back, it will say negative or positive. But a positive reading alone does not mean you necessarily have cancer. Dr. Borazanci says what it means is that you could have colon cancer. "But really the only way to know for sure is to see the doctors that perform the colonoscopies," he says.

But Dr. Borazanci says if the privacy of starting the process at home gets more people to test early,  that is definitely a good thing. "If you pick it up early, we can catch it early and give you a high chance of living a long time with this disease," he says.

Your primary care physician must still order the test for you, but again, this is certainly more private than a colonoscopy.