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New at-home test can tell you if you have colon cancer

Published Feb 27th, 2019 2:53PM EST
colon cancer home test
Image: Mint Images/Shutterstock

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Early detection is paramount to effect treatment of life-threatening diseases like cancer, but going to the doctor for a screening can be time-consuming and, for some, a bit scary. At-home tests for cancer aren’t exactly common, but a new study suggests a novel at-home screening may be suitable for some specific types of cancers, specifically in the colon.

As LiveScience reports, the study was a meta-analysis of dozens of research efforts that focused on the effectiveness of what is called a fecal immunochemical test. The test is designed to detect tiny traces of blood which may be a warning sign for colorectal cancers.

The big picture study, which was published in Annals of Internal Medicine, examined the data of 31 separate studies that sought to determine if the at-home test was as effective as a traditional colonoscopy. What the researchers found was that the test was up to 80 percent effective, detecting cancer in four out of five individuals who ultimately had it.

Colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer to result in death in the United States, but less than two-thirds of people at risk ever get screened for it. This could largely be due to the invasive and uncomfortable nature of a colonoscopy, but an at-home test that is up to 80 percent effective at detecting it would be a huge win for the medical community.

The researchers believe that the test would be an effective measure at detecting cancer if it were carried out one a year by an individual in the at-risk age range of 50 and older. A traditional colonoscopy screening for cancer is often only carried out every ten years or so, depending on the person.

It’s worth noting that a positive test result on the FIT would ultimately require the individual to undergo a colonoscopy anyway, but it would seem much more likely that a person would be willing to make that appointment after the at-home test suggested they likely have cancer.

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