Colon cancer touches the lives of 150,000 people in the U.S. each year and is the second leading cancer killer. While one of the deadliest, it is also one of the most preventable, if caught early. Now a new test could help save thousands from it.
Nothing makes Reba Streaker happier than surrounding herself with flowers.
“It just gives me pleasure," she says.
And just like her precious plants, she knows she has to take care of herself and that means screening for colon cancer. Reba had a friend who did not get tested.
"It became so obvious that it was too late and she lost her life to it," said Streaker.
That is why Reba enrolled in a study for a new DNA test to detect colon cancer. All colon cancers start as polyps. As those polyps develop, they shed cells into the stool stream. Some of these cells contain altered DNA. The new investigational test detects the abnormality in the patient's stool.
"It's a huge breakthrough,” said Dr. Steven Geller, the Deep C study’s principal investigator and Medical Director at Centennial Medical Group. “If it works as well as it seems to, then it will be a much easier way of screening for colon cancer then having them go through the colonoscopy."
The in-home test could catch cancerous and precancerous tumors early, before they turn deadly.
"So you can cut it out before it ever becomes cancerous and so nobody has to die from colon cancer," said Geller.
In another recent study, researchers found the test detected 87% of colorectal cancer in curable stages. Once detected, you still need to have a colonoscopy to find the cells and remove them. But the new non-invasive test could help persuade those who would ordinarily shy away from a colonoscopy.
"It tells you if this test is positive, you definitely need a colonoscopy," said Geller.
A test Reba is positive about too.
"I hope this works for other people and other generations. So we can save lives," she said.
The study is currently recruiting participants in more than 80 locations across the U.S and Canada. For information on how to participate can be found at exactsciences.com. If approved by the FDA, the test could be available to patients in 2014.
BACKGROUND: Colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the United States. In the U.S. 1 in 17 people will develop colorectal cancer. The National Cancer Institute estimates there will be about 143,000 new cases of colorectal cancer diagnosed in 2012 and that almost 52,000 people will die from the disease. Colorectal cancer is more common in older Americans. About 60% of newly diagnosed people are age 65 or older. (SOURCE: The National Cancer Institute)
SCREENING: Screening is recommended for everyone beginning at age 50. Depending on the screening method used and individual risk factors, these tests should be repeated at 1-year, 3-year, 5-year and 10-year intervals. (SOURCE: American Cancer Society)
More than 40% of adults age 50 and older have not been screened or are not up to date with colorectal cancer screening. (SOURCE: CDC)
Colorectal cancer is highly treatable if caught early. Yet 60% of patients are diagnosed with the disease in its late stages, primarily due to poor screening compliance. (SOURCE: Mayo Clinic)
RISK FACTORS: No one knows exactly what causes colorectal cancer, but there are certain risk factors including age, colorectal polyps, family or personal history of colorectal cancer, genetic alterations, ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease, diet and smoking. (SOURCE: The National Cancer Institute)
EXACT SCIENCES TEST: If approved by the FDA, the Exact Sciences test will be a new, non-invasive, in-home stool-based DNA (sDNA) screening test for the early detection of colorectal cancer. Results of two studies suggest that the test is highly accurate and significantly more sensitive than other non-invasive tests at detecting pre-cancerous tumors and early stage cancer. The test was developed by Exact Sciences and the Mayo Clinic. The Exact Sciences test detects altered DNA from pre-cancerous or cancerous polyps anywhere in the colon. All colon cancers start as polyps, and as polyps develop, they shed cells into the stool that contain altered DNA associated with both colorectal pre-cancer and cancer. If a patient's results are abnormal, a colonoscopy is required to confirm the results.
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