From Stillwater-Ponca City (OK) Ostomy Outlook April 2001:

Colon Cancer Screening May Change with DNA Test

from Mayo Clinic Health Letter, Feb 2001; via Worcester (MA) New Diversions

Mayo Clinic researchers are heading a nationwide clinical trial of a new DNA test they believe could save thousands of lives each year. The test, which requires only a stool sample, detects DNA that's shed from pre-cancerous colon polyps and early stage colon cancer.

In a clinical pilot study, Mayo Clinic researchers found that the test detected 91 percent of cancers throughout the colon. The test also detected 73 percent of the polyps. In addition, there were no false-positive results (results indicating a problem when there isn't one). That contrasts with false-positives of 5 percent to 10 percent from current colon and rectal cancer screening tests that check for blood in the stool. A false-positive generally leads to unnecessary colonoscopy - an invasive and more expensive test used to evaluate the colon.

Although the DNA test is likely to be more expensive than tests that check for blood in the stool, Mayo Clinic doctors say that accuracy of the new test would reduce unnecessary follow-up exams. And when results are positive, a follow-up colonoscopy would allow for early detection and removal of polyps, avoiding future surgeries for more advanced colon or rectal cancer.

Assuming the clinical trial backs up initial findings, it will be at least 2 to 3 years before the DNA test becomes widely available.

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Content last revised 2001-04-14