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Colorectal Cancer Health Center

New Colon Cancer Test Shows Promise

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"The existing tests are good, but there is plenty of room for new tests that people would be more comfortable with," he says. "Right now, half a million people a year die of colon cancer worldwide. Most of those deaths could be prevented and much of that sickness spared if those tumors were found early."

Roughly 135,000 new cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year, and there are 60,000 deaths from the disease. Routine screening is recommended for everyone 50 and older, but fewer than half of those eligible are screened.

The CDC's Cancer Prevention and Control center estimates that colorectal cancer deaths would drop by a third if everyone at moderate to high risk for the disease were tested. Moderate risk includes anyone who is 50 or older. You are at high risk if you have a close relative who has had colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer, or if you have inflammatory bowel disease.

Roswell Park Cancer Center medical director Judy L. Smith, MD, tells WebMD that we may still be a decade away from a simple blood or fecal test that is as effective as colonoscopy for detecting cancer and precancerous polyps.

"It is not yet clear exactly what the best utilization of this test will be," she says. "It may turn out to be an ancillary test to be used along with colonoscopy. This, in addition to other tools being developed, such as virtual colonoscopy, will probably not replace other screening methods. But they will give us other tools in our armamentarium to find cancer early and cure the patient."

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