Colonoscopies may be the most despised medical test.
The day-before laxative prep is miserable. And the procedure itself is no walk in the park.
Now, a new study shows that you may not need to put yourself through that ordeal. An at-home test may be just as effective in finding colon cancer.
The study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Researchers analyzed data from 31 studies with 120,255 subjects. All had average colon cancer risk.
The subjects first had a stool test. They later underwent a colonoscopy.
The stool test was the fecal immunochemical test (FIT). It was found to accurately detect cancer up to 91% of the time. This is comparable to a colonoscopy.
Dr. Thomas Imperiale was the senior researcher. He said that for those at average risk, there are “good alternatives to colonoscopy screening, and people should be aware of that.”
Doctors recommend that those who get a positive FIT result follow up with a colonoscopy. But patients who test negative can skip the colonoscopy and take a yearly FIT test.
Dr. Imperiale suggests patients at average risk who hate colonoscopies ask their doctors about taking a FIT test instead. People are defined as average risk if they have:
- Never had colon cancer or been diagnosed with pre-cancerous polyps.
- No family history of colon cancer.
- Never had inflammatory bowel disease.
Experts estimate that 35% of people who should get colonoscopies don’t. Doctors hope that this much easier, non-invasive alternative will result in more people getting screened for colon cancer.
How FIT Works
For a FIT test, your doctor gives you a test kit to take home. You go to the bathroom and use a small brush you’re provided with to brush the surface of the stool. You then dip the brush into the toilet water and touch it onto a test card.
You either send the card for testing yourself, or your doctor may ask you to bring it into the office for his staff to send in.
That’s all there is to it. No harsh laxatives. No lost day of work.
Dr. James Allison wrote an editorial that accompanied the research paper. He said: “We need to recognize that FIT is at least as good as a colonoscopy.”
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