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Dr. Kim Mulvihill Reporting Screening for colon cancer saves lives, but far too many people shy away from getting tested. Now there is a new twist on an old test that might change that. It's a stool test that screens for blood.
This new test doesn't require any special diet. You do it on your own at home. And a new study from Kaiser Permanente says it works.
Matthews was part of a study testing Fecal Immunochemical Tests or "FITS," for short. They look for human blood in the stool.
"If it's positive, you have to have a colonoscopy. If it's not, you can wait another year or two before you have another test," Matthews explained.
Gastroenterologist Dr. Jim Allison led the research. He says the tests are effective at spotting polyps and colon cancer, and since they're easy to use, they may help improve screening rates. "Don't shy away from it. It's easy to do. and it's effective," Allison said.
He says while colonoscopy is a great test, it's not always an option. "There are 65 million people in the United States who are 50 years and older and eligible for screening. We do not have the capacity to do that kind of screening, and in fact, with almost 50 million patients uninsured in our country, we don't have the money for it either," he said.
Allison says the best test may be the one the patient gets done. Matthews couldn't agree more. "Get it done, you know it's a simple test, just get it done. I would have never known," she said.
Right now, only half the people who should be screened do so. If that screening rate increased from 50 percent to 90 percent, there would be approximately 14,000 lives saved per year.
Dr. Allison says the "FIT" tests are a good option for people of average risk for colon cancer, but if you're at high risk, if there is a family history of the disease, you've already had it or even a polyp, or if you have inflammatory bowel disease like ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease, then colonoscopy is a better choice.