Colon cancer is one of the most curable forms of the disease because of its slow moving nature. Unfortunately, lack of early detection has made it the second leading cause of death in the US, claiming around 50,000 lives every year.
A large part of the lack of early detection is the highly invasive process of checking on your colon. Colonoscopies involve inserting a camera attached to a long, thin tube into the anus. This is highly effective, catching approximately 90% of cancer and pre-cancer signs in patients.
Colonoscopies are an arduous procedure, in addition to being frightening. They are time-intensive, requiring patients to clear out their bowels with laxatives before and after. Patients must also be sedated during the procedure, which can increase anxiety. And then of course, there's the long, thin tube part of the process.
To the benefit of many, researchers have created a screening kit that tests skin cells that are shed into the stool stream. Cologuard, as it is called, picks up on the altered DNA of cancerous or precancerous colon polyps.
The new test's developers at Exact Sciences Corp. reported that a preliminary study of 1,100 patient samples found that Cologuard detected 85% of cancers and 64% of pre-cancers.
Although this is likely to encourage early testing, makers stress that Cologuard is not a replacement test, but rather a first step in detecting the disease.