If you’re familiar with my opinions on cancer screening, then you may recall that there’s one test I am 100 percent in favor of—the colonoscopy.
My father and two uncles died of colon cancer. Which puts me in a very high risk group. So I go in for screening every three years like clockwork. And I have no plans to miss an appointment. Ever.
I know, however, not everyone shares this level of enthusiasm—a lot of my patients included.
They come to me with long lists of concerns. About the anesthesia. And the prep. And the risk of perforation. The list goes on.
And you know what? These concerns are totally valid.
So when I came across the study results I want to share with you today, I was ecstatic.
This meta-analysis focused on the accuracy rate of the fecal immunochemical test (FIT). This is a simple stool test you can perform at home. And it doesn’t require any uncomfortable or harsh preparations.
FIT is similar to the fecal occult blood test, another at-home screen that tests for blood in the stool. But the fecal occult blood test only detects between 13 and 50 percent of cancers on a first screening. Not great accuracy—which is why I don’t wholeheartedly endorse that option.
But after looking at 19 different studies, researchers concluded that FIT is both highly sensitive and specific. Which means FIT isn’t just able to detect colon cancer—it’s able to do so with impressive accuracy, as well.
Results showed that FIT was able to detect four out of five cancers after just a single test.
On the face of it, that’s amazing accuracy, which is fantastic news. But we’ll still have to wait for a direct head-to-head between the FIT and a colonoscopy. Luckily, that research is going on right now in the USA and Spain. And we should have the results in the next three to five years.
But if you’re still on the fence about getting a colonoscopy, FIT a very viable alternative for low-risk patients.
You may also want to consider another test, called ColoVantange. If you’re a subscriber, you might remember me first mentioning this test back in the July 2012 issue of my monthly newsletter, Logical Health Alternatives
ColoVantage is a blood test that’s available through Quest Diagnostics. And it screens for colon cancer based on genetic markers (in this case, the SEPT9 gene). It’s able to detect cancer about 70 percent of the time. And in most cases the result is accurate.
At this point, there are no assurances that either of these screens is as effective as colonoscopy at detecting colorectal cancers. Which is why I still strongly recommend scheduling routine colonoscopy.
But if it comes down to alternative testing or no testing at all, I’d much rather see you agreeing to the former. Because sadly, I know firsthand how heavily your life could depend upon it.
“Accuracy of Fecal Immunochemical Tests for Colorectal Cancer: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.”Ann Intern Med. 2014;160(3):171-181-181.