Recent reports of President Obama's CT colonography, or virtual colonoscopy, as a screening test for colorectal cancer and coverage by the Associated Press of an NIH State-of-the-Science conference heralding stool blood tests as an inexpensive alternative to colonoscopy may leave many consumers wondering which colorectal cancer test is best for them. Physician experts from the American College of Gastroenterology are available to comment and help provide perspective on the many options for colorectal cancer screening during March Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
"As GI physicians on the front line of diagnosing colorectal cancer, we are concerned that recent news reports may give an incomplete picture of the use of various screening tests in detecting colorectal cancer, especially if patients are at higher than average risk," commented ACG President Philip O. Katz, M.D., FACG.
The ability to prevent colorectal cancer through polyp removal is the cornerstone of ACG's recommendation of colonoscopy as a "preferred" cancer screening strategy. There is a tremendous body of evidence that shows that clearing the colon of polyps, including small polyps, significantly reduces colorectal cancer mortality. When detected in its earliest and most treatable stage, the survival rates for colorectal cancer exceed 90 percent.
"It's vital that patients are fully aware of all of their options because some tests could delay the accurate diagnosis of colon cancer and the prompt removal of colon polyps," explained Dr. Katz. In some cases, false negative stool tests could prevent the timely detection of abnormalities which could impact survival. Suspicious findings on some tests mean that patients may still need to undergo colonoscopy.
Confusion surrounding screening options is especially alarming for African Americans, who have the highest incidence of colorectal cancer of any racial or ethnic group, and who face decreased survival compared with whites because early diagnosis is essential.
Physician Experts Available for Interviews
ACG experts can address:
•Pros and Cons of various colorectal cancer screening methods, including colonoscopy, stool blood tests, and so-called "virtual" tests using CT scans of the abdomen
•Emergence of new screening technologies such as fecal-immunochemical tests
•Recent scientific developments in colorectal cancer prevention
•Screening recommendations for average to high-risk individuals, particularly African-Americans.
American College of Gastroenterology