By getting your stools tested every year, you could reduce your risk of dying from colorectal cancer, according to a new study that compared several screening tests for colon cancer.
Stool tests, called fecal immunochemical tests, screen for cancer by detecting blood in human waste matter. Widespread adoption of the tests could get more people to participate in annual cancer screenings than colonoscopies or other invasive procedures do, said researchers from the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.
Clinical guidelines recommend beginning screening for colorectal cancer at 50 years old for people with average risk. But not everyone is keen on tests like colonoscopies, so many patients don't get them.
The researchers found that, for a group of 100,000 average-risk patients who underwent fecal immunochemical tests instead of no screening at all, the number of cancer cases could be reduced from 4,857 to 1,782. And the number of deaths from colorectal cancer could be reduced from 1,393 to 457.
The tests could also reduce health-care costs compared with other colorectal cancer screening strategies or no screening at all, the study said.
The researchers compared three screening strategies in a hypothetical group of patients: getting a fecal immunochemical test every year, undergoing computed tomographic colonography every five years, and having a colonoscopy every 10 years. They compared these three strategies against no screening at all.
They found that yearly fecal immunochemical tests were the most effective and the least costly of the screening options, saving each person about $66 in lifetime health-care costs.
Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute, which expects nearly 143,000 people to be diagnosed with it this year.
The study was published today (Nov. 23) in the journal PLoS Medicine.