The Plain Truth

The Plain Truth
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Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Better Test for Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer has been called the most preventable, but least prevented, form of cancer. There are more than 143,000 new cases and about 50,000 deaths from the disease in the U.S. each year, making it second only to lung cancer in annual cancer mortality.
Healthy Ambitions: "I suspect it's a test that everybody in this room is going to want to use when it becomes available," Kevin Conroy, the CEO of Exact Sciences, recently told a group of investors.
If people over 50 adhere to medical-screening guidelines and get colonoscopies every 10 years, the odds of dying from colon cancer are very low because doctors can see and remove precancerous growths during the exam. It can take a decade or more for these precancerous polyps to turn into cancer. However, half of all Americans over 50 don't follow screening recommendations. Many never get colon exams because of cost, inconvenience, fear, or dislike of the unpleasant bowel-cleansing substances they must consume before the examination. So, more than half of colon cancers are diagnosed at a late stage, when death rates can be high, in part because the most common screening test—a check for blood in stool—isn't good at detecting precancerous growths.

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