A colorectal cancer screening can be bought and used at home. The fecal immunochemical test (FIT) can be purchased by Kaiser Permanente. The hospital sends a small kit by mail, and the instructions for use are both in the envelope and can be accessed by video on the Kaiser Permanente website.
The Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) was the forerunner of the FIT, and only has a 13 to 50 percent ability to detect colorectal cancers. Colorectal cancers include colon, rectal and bowel cancer. The improvement in technique means that only one stool sample is needed for proper diagnosis and screening.
One of the advantages of using the FIT is that a person does not have to take any dietary precautions before testing nor must they skip their daily medications. Those who have a positive cancer result must then seek more invasive methods of diagnosis.
An evidence-based review published in Annals of Internal Medicine shows that in 79 percent of cases, colorectal cancer is identified through home kits. That is four of five cancers detected with only one round of testing. For those who have avoided getting a colonoscopy, this may be a way to take responsibility for their health by self-testing. In 94 percent of cases, those who have no cancer are given accurate results. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The lead author of the study, Jeffrey Lee, says, “The American Cancer Society and other professional organizations have recommended FIT as a screening tool for colorectal cancer since 2008, but there are still many people who don’t know about it.”
Lee stated that those who are too shy or uncomfortable with the colonoscopy can order the FIT kit by mail. Once the stool sample, taken in the privacy of the home, is sent to the laboratory, the results can be sent to the patient and the doctor or caregiver can be copied on the results.
Beth Liles, a medical doctor who co-authored the study, says, “We know the FIT is easy to use, and now we also know that it is a great tool for assessing which patients have cancer and which patients don’t.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths. Unfortunately, only one out of three individuals is properly diagnosed before the disease takes its toll. This is because many people are intimidated by the colonoscopy, which, until recently, was all that was available for those over 50 years old.
The US Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) was created in 1984, and consists of an independent group of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine that works to improve the health of all Americans. The USPSTF makes the recommendation that persons at age 50 should get screened for colorectal cancer, and continue to test every 10 years until the age of 75. Colorectal cancer screens completed at home are a good alternative to other more stressful procedures.
Lee is hopeful that the FIT will be acceptable to the average person. Colorectal cancer screening is a convenient and easy alternative that can be used at home. Accurate and available on the market at a reasonable price, the colorectal cancer screening should be a welcome change.
By Lisa M Pickering