By Marilynn Marchione
AP Chief Medical Writer
(Physicians News – Oct. 26) Starting Monday, millions of people who have avoided colon cancer screening can get a new home test that’s noninvasive and doesn’t require the icky preparation most other methods do.
The test is the first to look for cancer-related DNA in stool. But deciding whether to get it is a more complex choice than ads for “the breakthrough test … that’s as easy as going to the bathroom” make it seem.
On one hand, the test could greatly boost screening for a deadly disease that too few people get checked for now.
On the other hand, it could lure people away from colonoscopies and other tests that, unlike the new one, have been shown to save lives.
It might even do both.
“It looks promising,” but its impact on cancer risk and survival isn’t known, said Dr. Barnett Kramer, a National Cancer Institute screening expert.
David Smith, 67, a retired teacher from Northfield, Minnesota, shows the test’s potential. He has never been screened for colon cancer and his doctor ran through the options, including a barium enema or a scope exam.
“He pulled out one of those really colorful brochures they have for all those procedures,” Smith said, but he had suffered an infection from a prostate biopsy years ago and didn’t want another invasive test. When the doctor mentioned the new DNA test, “I said, well, sign me up.”
The test was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in August and will be offered by prescription at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, where it was developed, starting Monday, with Medicare reimbursement. It has been sold through a website and private practice doctors since its approval for people willing to pay for it themselves. It’s called Cologuard and is sold by Exact Sciences Corp. of Madison, Wisconsin. Mayo Clinic and one of its doctors get royalties from the test.
Here are some things to know about it: