Have you had one? Worse yet, two or more colonoscopies? Although most doctors will put you out for the procedure itself, the test carries its own risks – anesthesia reaction, bleeding from biopsy, perforation of the colon. And the preliminary cleansing ritual is a test of one’s capacity to endure the humiliation of deliberating imbibing nasty-tasting substances for the express purpose of irritating your stomach and bowels.
Now a new DNA test can detect potential colorectal cancers earlier than fecal occult tests alone – and I hope that with negative results, perhaps make some colonoscopies unnecessary. Called the Cologuard test, it detects hemoglobin and mutant DNA in cells sloughed into stool by cancers and adenomatous polyps. The test is so well-thought-of that it achieved a first: approved by the FDA and proposed as a test to be covered by Medicare on the same day.
“…DNA test detected 92% of colon cancers and 42% of advanced adenomas, as compared with 74% and 24% for FIT. The fecal occult blood test did have a higher specificity, correctly ruling out colon lesions 95% of the time versus 87% for the DNA test.
“The CMS proposal calls for coverage of the DNA test once every 3 years for beneficiaries who meet specific criteria: ages 50 to 85, asymptomatic (including negative FIT or guaiac fecal occult blood test), and average risk of colorectal cancer.”
Talk to your doctor about whether this test might be useful for you.