A Public Service Announcement

The studies are going to continue for years, and (as always seems to be the case with medical stuff) they will agree, disagree, and maybe agree. In the meantime, what is a human to do?

I was one of the early test subjects for the fecal occult blood test – basically, you collect a small amount of your poo and send it to a lab, and they check for signs of blood or (now) other metabolites that may indicate a cancer. NBC reports [nbc]

When it comes to colon cancer screening, an annual stool test may be as effective as colonoscopy for people who don’t have risk factors for the disease, a new study suggests.

Researchers analyzed data from 31 studies that included more than 120,000 average risk patients who had a stool test and then a colonoscopy. They determined that the fecal immunochemical test – or FIT – is sufficient to screen for colon cancer, according to the report published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The FIT is designed to detect the protein hemoglobin, which is found in red blood cells. People who test positive with the FIT need to get a colonoscopy to determine whether they have cancer or pre-cancerous lesions. But those who test negative only need to keep getting the FIT each year to make sure they don’t develop colon cancer.

If you have a history of colon cancer in your family, or a diet that is likely to increase your chances of colon cancer, you should continue to get colonoscopies. Otherwise, the fecal tests are improving rapidly and appear to be effective. Considering the cost and difficulty of doing the test, it seems like a no-brainer to me.

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I believe I mentioned this last year, too. I’m going to try to mention it every year or so. Meanwhile, the tests are getting better! It turns out there is all kinds of fascinating things they can look for, in addition to diamonds, that is.


  1. says

    An “occult” fecal blood test? What do they do, send it to a psychic for a reading?

    (Sorry. Yes I do know what it really means. I just could not resist . . .)

  2. says

    What do they do, send it to a psychic for a reading?

    I’m surprised the local christians aren’t up in arms about it, to be honest.

    (I remember my first CAT scan; I got fur all over my jacket)

  3. AndrewD says

    The Evil NHS, here in the UK offers everyone over 60(I think) a chance to take a free test every two years. the Kit is sent by post, returned by post and any positive results sent to your GP for further investigation.
    When is the US joining the civilized world?

  4. says

    When is the US joining the civilized world?

    We’re not going to join it; we’re going to destroy it so that nobody else can haz sivilizashun either.

  5. lorn says

    How the mighty have fallen.

    That’s quite a step down for Miss Cleo, from psychic with all the wining lottery numbers to divining people’s fortunes from smears pf poop.

  6. Jazzlet says

    AndrewD @#3
    It’s 60 and over, a subtle but distinct difference.

    Back in the day I worked for a while assessing people for housing benefits (rent support), one year our management decided that they didn’t like the computer package we were using so they got their own written. I don’t know what testing occured before it went live, with all of the existing claimants needing to be input in the space of a few days up to the switchover at the usual point of the yearly rates and council rent increase. Whatever testing they did failed to pick up that pensioners were defined as ‘over 60’ if female and ‘over 65’ if male, so when the assessments started rolling off the preinters to be checked there was mass panic, as hundreds of pensioners were denied the extra rent money they were entitled to therefor putting them in rent arrears if they were council tenants and owing us money if they were private tenants. The programme was better than the old one once kinks like that were sorted out, but the stress that error caused made me remember it with a shiver thirty years later when I saw your ‘over 60’.

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