What They Never Tell You About Colonoscopy

Could an inexpensive blood test spot early stage colon cancer?

Photo: cdorobek, CC BY 2.0

(HEADLINE HEALTH) Colonoscopies are often recommended to detect colon cancer or pre- cancerous polyps, but many people avoid them when they learn what’s involved:

  • 3-4 days on a restrictive diet, followed by 24 hours with no solid food
  • Consuming a full gallon of laxatives, resulting in what WebMD describes as ‘frequent, forceful diarrhea.’
  • Possible nausea and vomiting, and hours in the bathroom. Souce: WebMD

That’s not all. The procedure also entails substantial risks:

  • Adverse reaction to the sedative used during the exam
  • Bleeding from the site where a tissue sample (biopsy) was taken or a polyp or other abnormal tissue was removed
  • A tear in the colon or rectum wall (perforation) Source: Mayo Clinic

A lot of things can go wrong even after colonoscopy:

  • Perforations or lacerations can cause bleeding and hemorrhage or even infections that don’t show up for a day or more;
  • sedative drugs can cause reactions resulting in hypoxia, aspiration pneumonia, and cardiac arrhythmias.
  • Abdominal pain or nausea can also result, possibly from preparation. Source: MedPageToday

And then there’s the cost:

  • Patients without health insurance typically pay $2,100 to $3,764, according to CostHelper.com. The average colonoscopy cost is $3,081.
  • Patients with health insurance pay deductibles based on their plan. Deductibles range from zero to more than $1,000. Source: Bankrate.com

But since the cost of not having a colonoscopy can be your life, many people go ahead and have the procedure anyway.

A popular alternative the colonoscopy is the Fecal Occult Blood test, which looks for blood in your stool.

It can be a sign of a problem in your digestive system, such as a growth, or polyp, or cancer in the colon or rectum, says WebMD.

And the  FOB test doesn’t involve the prep, the risks, or the costs associated with a colonoscopy. 

If the test shows the presence of  blood, it’s important for your doctor to find the source of bleeding to diagnose and treat the problem. Kits can be obtained from a pharmacy or from your doctor.

Now we’re learning that a new blood test may become available that avoids all the messy and uncomfortable bathroom-focused procedures now in use … details below from WebMD.

Could a Blood Test Spot Early Stage Colon Cancer?

(Alan Mozes, HealthDay News | WebMD) A simple, cheap blood test to detect colon cancer — even in its early stages — appears highly effective and accurate, new research indicates.

The test detects so-called “circulating tumor cells” (CTCs). Researchers tested it on 620 people in Taiwan who were scheduled for a routine colonoscopy at a local hospital.

Test is ‘highly accurate’

By comparing the blood test results with the colonoscopy results, the study team found that the blood test identified colon cancer in 87 percent of cases, ranging from stage I to stage IV cancer.

The blood test also was able to detect 77 percent of pre-cancerous lesions indicating early stage disease.

The researchers described the test as highly accurate, noting that it correctly identified cancer 84 to 88 percent of the time.

Less than 3 percent of the time did it produce a “false positive” result, which mistakenly indicates the presence of cancer when there is none.

Under $150 

“Because the test can easily be made available for under $150, it could potentially be offered directly to consumers and ordered by physicians, with colonoscopy being the confirmatory diagnostic,” said study author Dr. Ashish Nimgaonkar.

The test is not yet available in the United States. If and when it does come to market, he said, it probably would not replace colonoscopy as the gold standard for screening. Rather, it most likely would supplant the preliminary stool-based tests that people often are reluctant to use, Nimgaonkar said.

“This test could be an option for such individuals, boosting compliance” because it has a “higher sensitivity” than the stool-based screening options now available, he said.

Nimgaonkar is a gastroenterologist and medical director of Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design, in Baltimore.

He and his colleagues are scheduled to present their findings Jan. 20 in San Francisco at the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Read the full story at WebMD.

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