Simple Blood Test Can Detect Colon Cancer

Health care providers have a new tool to use in the screening for colon and rectal cancer for people age 50-years-of-age and older – the first blood-based test approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

A blood test that can be done in a physician’s office, the Epi proColon, offers an additional screening tool for colorectal cancer (CRC). Current preventive health recommendations include colorectal screening for those age 50 and older. Prior to the approval of the Epi proColon, health care providers and their patients had three screening tests from which to choose – a colonoscopy, a fecal immunochemical test (FIT) or fecal occult blood testing (FOBT).

The newly-approved blood test, which received FDA approval by a narrow margin among panel members, is intended for use in patients who are at moderate risk for colorectal cancer, but are uncomfortable using one of the other testing methods.

Dr. Karen E. Weck, a member of the FDA approving panel and professor and director of the Molecular Genetics Laboratory, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, explained her hesitation in approving Epi proColon, “”I’m uncomfortable with not clarifying that it should be an alternative for people who are not willing to take the FIT test.”

The decision of which test is most appropriate for your individual health condition and health history is one to be made between you and your health care provider. People who are squeamish about obtaining their own fecal samples for testing or the invasive nature of a colonoscopy won’t have to forego CRC testing altogether now with the advent of this screening blood test.

Like the FIT and FOBT screening tests, a positive result on an Epi proColon test would require additional testing, most likely a colonoscopy, to determine the presence or absence of cancer.

Why Approve a Blood Test for Colorectal Cancer Screening?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about one in three adults aged 50 to 74 years in the United States is not getting tested as recommended for colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the country.

One of the goals of the agency is to match patients with the CRC screening test they are most likely to complete. The Epi proColon, already in use in Europe and China, offers health care providers an additional tool to introduce patients to CRC screening. While a colonoscopy is the preferred and most accurate screening CRC tool, with the FIT or FOBT second choices, recommending tests that patients won’t complete doesn’t move anyone closer to the goal of improving the number of people who become tested.

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    • Deb Jones

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