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14th January 2015

Would you take a home stool test for colon cancer?

Suppose you opened your postbox to find an empty plastic container and instructions on how to collect and post a sample of your stool to be screened for colon cancer. Would you casually precede to the bathroom and take care of business or would you just laugh it off as joke?

If you’d place yourself in the first category, it seems that you wouldn’t be alone. A recent study found that people who receive a test by post were much more likely to complete the test than those who may been provided home testing materials during a routine doctor’s visit.

The test in question is called a FIT, or fecal immunochemical test, and it detects small amounts of blood in the stool. More new research suggests that the FIT is more effective than previously thought, and is able to detect 79 percent of colorectal cancers without making people change their diets or stop taking their medications, as some other screening tests require.

“Many patients don’t understand that a simple stool test can save their lives,” says Dr. Tanya Kapka of Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center in an interview with Medical News Today. “The FIT test can be done at home, it takes only a few minutes, and if conducted annually, is effective for determining which patients are most likely to have colon cancer.”

Your test is positive. Now what?

People who test positive with a FIT are typically advised to follow up with a doctor who will use other medtech to investigate further. This could include a sigmoidoscopy in which the doctor inserts a long, flexible, lighted tube called a sigmoidoscope, or scope, into the anus and slowly guides it through the rectum and into the lower colon. The scope inflates the colon with air to give the doctor a better view. A small camera mounted on the scope transmits a video image from inside the colon to a computer screen, allowing the doctor to carefully examine the tissues lining the sigmoid colon and rectum.

A colonoscopy is used when the doctor needs a more comprehensive view: in this case, a long, flexible, narrow tube with a light and tiny camera on one end, called a colonoscope provides a look inside the rectum and entire colon.

Third most common cancer

According to stats from EuropaColon, new cases of colorectal cancer are predicted to be 9.7% of the total global cancer cases by 2020 and today represent the third most common cancer in worldwide. More than 450,000 citizens in Europe are newly diagnosed every year with the disease.

The UK’s National Health Service notes that approximately 72% of colorectal cancer cases develop in people who are 65 or over. Two-thirds of which develop in the colon, with the remaining third developing in the rectum.

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