If you’re over 50, regular colorectal cancer screening is a fact of life. Depending on your risk level, that could mean getting a colonoscopy – which, as we all know, is way, way down the list of experiences that are the most fun ever.
But colorectal cancer is most treatable when found early. Given it’s one of the top cancer killers in Canada, regular screening is critical. So it’s easy to understand why experts are working on more palatable procedures.
Cologuard is a new noninvasive stool-sample test developed by the Mayo Clinic in partnership with Wisconsin-based Exact Sciences Corp. A recently completed clinical trial of 10,000 Canadians and Americans has found it to be as accurate as a colonoscopy in detecting cancer.
Traditional stool-sample tests only check for traces of blood. But Cologuard also screens for DNA signs of cancer and pre-cancer. The test requires no change to diet or medication, no awkward preparations and no time off work. That’s the beauty of it, says Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist and co-inventor Dr. David Ahlquist. “A large proportion of the population is unwilling to undergo screening colonoscopy, and Cologuard is a logical option for these patients.”
The test isn’t yet approved in Canada. But in the meantime, researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton may soon come up with an alternative – even flashy – solution. With a Canadian Cancer Society grant, they’re developing fluorescent enzymes that will glow when they come into contact with colorectal cancer in stool samples. The future is bright, my friends.