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The Good, the Bad and the Newest Arrival in Large Bowel Cancer Screening

The Good: This test is so-o-o simple. There are no needles, no x rays, no bowel preparation, no fasting and no endoscopy.

We welcome the arrival of the newest screening test for cancer of the large bowel: Genetic Testing of the Stool. Recent scientific research has identified colon cancer as the result of changes in the genetic makeup of cells. Some of these specific changes have been identified in polyps and cancers in the large bowel. As cells are constantly shed in the large bowel and are mingled in the stools, stool samples can be analyzed for the presence of cancer-related genes.

The Good: This test is so-o-o simple. There are no needles, no x rays, no bowel preparation, no fasting and no endoscopy. The patient simply hands in a stool sample.

The Bad: The test is not widely available. Furthermore, while identifying a cancer-related gene in the stool sample is a very significant finding, absence of these genes cannot, at this stage of development of the technique, reliably exclude the presence of cancers or polyps.

The Way Forward: The test does have a great potential to be the next most useful screening test for large bowel cancer. Until then, don’t keep waiting for the perfect test. Attack first and consider screening yourself for large bowel cancer with the conventional screening methods including Fecal Occult Blood and Colonoscopy.

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