TUESDAY, April 3 (HealthDay News) -- A noninvasive stool test could help doctors detect early stage colorectal cancer and precancerous growths, a new study says.
The test might help minimize false-positive results and prevent deaths associated with this type of cancer, said researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and Exact Sciences, the company developing the test.
Still, other issues remain, and experts say that the stool-based test won't replace colonoscopy anytime soon as the best means of spotting colon polyps or tumors.
"For now, colonoscopy remains the undisputed winner when it comes to screening for colon cancer," said Dr. Lawrence Cohen, associate clinical professor of gastroenterology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. He was not involved in the study.
The research was to be presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in Chicago.
The new stool-based screen targets multiple molecular "markers" in stool. Tested in 500 patients who were also undergoing colonoscopy or follow-up care after the detection of colon polyps, researchers found that the screen was highly sensitive to certain critical early cancer screening targets. Unlike other stool-based colon cancer tests, the new test also seemed to be unaffected by patients' medications, sex, race, body mass, lifestyle or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps.
These results mean that "patients don't have to change their lifestyle to have this test," Dr. David Ahlquist, professor of medicine and a consultant in gastroenterology and hepatology at the Mayo Clinic, said in an AACR meeting news release. "That was important from a patient-friendly standpoint for a test like this and could benefit compliance."
The study's authors noted, however, that a patient's age was the one variable that seemed to influence test results. Based on the study's findings, the t
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