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At-Home Colon Cancer Screening Test can be Effective, Study Says

Update Date: Jan 26, 2016 11:27 AM EST

There might be an effective alternative to undergoing a colonoscopy.

According to a new study carried out by researchers at Kaiser Permanente Northern and Southern California, a non-invasive at home screening test for colon cancer can be almost as effective as a colonoscopy when used annually.

For this study, the researchers examined the effectiveness of the fecal immunochemical test (FIT) in 323,349 participants who used this screening method for four consecutive years. The participants were between the ages of 50 and 70.

The team found that the FIT was more effective at detecting colorectal cancer if it was the patient's first year using it. The effectiveness rate was at 84.5 percent. The team found that the test continued to be effective at detecting signs of cancer after year one. The effectiveness rate, however, dipped to 73 percent to 78 percent when used in years two, three and four.

"We found that the sensitivity for cancer was somewhat higher in the first year, and that's not surprising," study author, Dr. Douglas Corley said reported by Medical Xpress. "The first year you screen someone, for breast cancer or for anything, you're going to find cancers that have been there for a while that may be larger or are easier to detect."

The FIT works by picking up any signs of blood that might have been shed by colon tumors in the stool. Blood typically indicates cancer or large polyps that could be precancerous in the colon. Unlike colonoscopies, this form of screening does not require patients to empty their bowels, does not involve any forms of sedation and does not use a scope. Colonoscopies, however, is usually conducted once every 10 years.

"You find early cancers, you remove all the polyps, and it buys you 10 years of protection," Dr. Richard Wender, chief cancer control officer at the American Cancer Society, said about the benefits of colonoscopies.

The researchers noted that the other non-invasive screening method known as the fecal occult blood test (FOBT) is the least effective out of the three.

"It [FIT] doesn't require dietary changes or medications," Dr. Alok Khorana, an oncologist at Cleveland Clinic, who was not involved with the study, commented reported by CBS News. "Logically, it's a little bit easier and does have a higher detection rate than the [FOBT]."

The study's findings were published in the journal, Annals of Internal Medicine.

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