Could At Home Stool Test Detect Colon Cancer?

Could At Home Stool Test Detect Colon Cancer?


As soon as men reach the age of 50, they should immediately begin to worry about getting their prostates check and should have regular colonoscopy’s to ensure that their body is free of disease. Getting your prostate checked is never a fun time and the prep work for a colonoscopy is the worst part of that test, but what if I told you that there was an at home stool test that could let you know if you have colon cancer? Would you be interested or would you rather just visit your doctor? One study checking the accuracy of this at home test says you can trust it to find colon cancer.

The Study

The test you would complete at home is called fecal immunochemical tests, or FITs, and they look for hidden blood that can be in your stool. This test that can be performed from the comfort and privacy of your own home can detect the smallest signs of blood in your stool, which could be a sign that you have colon cancer.

Researchers looked at results of 19 studies where this test was being checked and found that across those studies, these FITs detected more than three quarters of cancerous colon tumors, or 79 percent to be exact. They also found after looking through the results of these studies that this at home stool test was a good tool in ruling out colon cancer.

Dr. Elizabeth Liles from the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research located in Portland, Ore. said that these tests “have very good potential as a screening tool.”

The findings that Liles and her fellow researchers found were published on Feb. 4 in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal.

There have been some studies that have found that the FITs are often successful in finding colon cancer and are also often unsuccessful. The release of these study findings give a great indication of how well these at home tests work on average.

The study found that the range of sensitivity varied greatly from test to test, but also found that when they eliminated the results of tests that are no longer available for purchase, the discrepancy in the range of sensitivity decreased. While the overall percentage of colon cancer detected by FITs is 79 percent, for the most part, the number is above 90 percent. With numbers that high, it means that these FITs can give accurate indications of whether a person has colon cancer or not.

There are at home stool tests that require two or three samples, while there are also those that require just a single sample. Both tests were found to perform about the same, meaning that those unwilling to give two or three samples would still be able to accurately determine if they have colon cancer or not.

Dr. Andrew Chan, a gastroenterologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Mass., says that the study “gives some very valuable information. Chan is not affiliated with the study, but he doesn’t feel that all the questions about these tests are answered. It is still unknown which form of detection is better at preventing deaths from colon cancer.

Colon Cancer Checks

The traditional methods of getting your colon checked is something that experts feel needs to be done for those that at an average risk of colon cancer by the time they are 50. There are a few different methods they can choose to complete after. If the results of the test are positive, there are various yearly stool tests that can be performed as well as a colonoscopy. They should consider having a colonoscopy at least every 10 years or a sigmoidoscopy every five years after a positive test. Both a colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy are invasive testing methods that allow doctors to inspect the inside of your colon for any indications of tumors. The latter is a less invasive method as it only looks at the bottom portion of the colon.

Increase in Use of FIT

The FIT exams have been growing in popularity over the past several years as doctors have found it better and easier to use than the traditional fecal occult blood tests. Since the belief is that these at home tests detect colon cancer better than other tests.

Traditional Methods

For decades, the colonoscopy has been the most popular test for determining if you have colon cancer and is the most used method in colon cancer detection. It is popular because the doctor is able to actually inspect the interior of the colon and also allows them to remove polyps, which are precancerous growths.

When it comes to how FIT and colonoscopy tests compare in cutting the risk of dying from colon cancer, Chan doesn’t believe there is any clear data. There are some studies currently being conducted in the United States as a U.S. government sponsored trial. They are assigning individuals to either have a colonoscopy of a yearly FIT test and then over the course of 10 years, are checking the rate of death based off each method of detection. 

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