An at-home screening test for colorectal cancer might soon replace awkward trips to the doctor for a colonoscopy.
A recent review of 31 studies found that fecal immunochemical test or FIT has identified 75 to 80 percent of people who have the disease. This suggests that the at-home screening test can be an alternative to colonoscopy for individuals who have an average risk of colorectal cancer.
At-Home Screening Kit For Colorectal Cancer
The FIT works by detecting the presence of blood in an individual's stool that otherwise might not be visible to the naked eye. One of the telltale symptoms of colorectal cancer is blood in or on the stool, according to the Centers for Disease Control Prevention.
To use the test, the patient places a paper sling that catches a sample of the stool on the toilet seat. The sample is then sent to a lab for analysis. The results are forwarded to a physician who will communicate the findings back to the patient. If the stool sample tested positive for colorectal cancer, the patient is advised to have a colonoscopy.
The recent analysis, which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on Tuesday, Feb. 26, suggests that FIT is a very acceptable alternative to screen for colorectal cancer for people who have an average risk or those who do not have a family history of the disease nor inflammatory bowel disease. Unlike colonoscopy, the at-home screening test is not invasive and does not require preparation in advance.
However, those who opt to use FIT at home will have to be screened more frequently. The researchers said that the test must be carried out once a year. In comparison, a colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years.
While effective, FIT does not completely remove the need for colonoscopy. The invasive procedure still has a 90 percent sensitivity according to the analysis. This means that it has identified cancer in 90 percent of people who have the disease.
Not Enough Adults Are Getting Screened
The review also found that only 65 percent of adults in the United States from ages 50 to 75 get screened for colorectal cancer. The findings cause serious concern because age is a risk factor of the disease. More than 90 percent of cases of colorectal cancer occur in people who are 50 years old and older.
The disease is also increasing among younger people. Last year, the American Cancer Society recommended that adults who are at average risk of colorectal cancer should start screening at 45 years old.