Screening for Colorectal Cancer Can Save Your Life – Making Sense of Your Options


Posted: October 26, 2022 | Word Count: 955

Sponsored by Exact Sciences

Recent news reports have caused confusion about recommendations for colorectal cancer screening. “Media reports inaccurately implied colonoscopies are ineffective at reducing colorectal cancer deaths,” said Dr. Paul Limburg, Chief Medical Officer of Exact Sciences, the maker of Cologuard®. “Those headlines glossed over the finding that colorectal cancer mortality risk was estimated to be cut in half for people who completed their screening colonoscopy.”1

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S.2, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s also the most preventable.3 When caught in early stages, colorectal cancer is more treatable in 90% of patients.4 Despite these encouraging statistics, only seven in 10 adults aged 50 to 75 are up to date with colorectal cancer screening.5

Like 70 percent of people diagnosed with colon cancer6, Leanne Snow had no family history of the disease. “My doctor told me it was time to get screened for colon cancer,” said Snow. “I was grateful to have a noninvasive option that didn’t require me to take time off work.” She screened with Cologuard, an at-home screening test, and much to her surprise, received a positive result. That positive result led to a colonoscopy and a diagnosis of cancer. The good news was that Snow’s cancer was discovered before it spread to her lymph nodes and was effectively treated with surgery. “Having an easy-to-use option made me take the step to get screened, and I’m glad I did,” she said. “I’m grateful my story wasn’t a different one.”

The Importance of Screening Guidelines

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has endorsed several methods for screening for colon cancer and it’s important to work with your clinician to choose the one that’s right for you. The USPSTF is an independent, volunteer task force that makes recommendations about preventive services based on clinical evidence. Recommended USPSTF tests include certain non-invasive stool-based tests (including tests like Cologuard), and direct visualization screenings like colonoscopy.

“If you’re 45 or older, it’s crucial that you get screened,” said Dr. Melinda Cail, a family medicine specialist. “When performed with USPSTF recommended methods, patients have the best chance at finding a treatable cancer early, or even preventing cancer by detecting pre-cancerous growths.”

Cologuard is the first and only FDA-approved, non-invasive stool DNA test used to screen average-risk people for colorectal cancer that is also recommended by USPSTF guidelines. Millions of people have been screened with Cologuard, which detects altered DNA and blood in the stool to find 92% of colorectal cancers in stages I to IV7, including 94% of stages I and II colorectal cancers8. Nationwide, more than 94% of Cologuard patients have no out-of-pocket cost for screening.*

The Future of Screening is Bright

“We’re seeing an exciting period of innovation in colorectal cancer screening,” said Dr. Limburg. “Some novel tests, like blood-based screening assays, are coming onto the market within a few years and will be appropriate for certain patients but will not replace existing options for colorectal cancer screening.”

A recent study presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting showed that blood-based tests result in detecting fewer colorectal cancer cases compared to stool-based tests due to differences in sensitivity and lower detection of pre-cancerous tumors.9 Colonoscopies and stool-based DNA tests remain the standard of care.

“In coming years, more evidence will be developed to appropriately determine the clinical impact that blood-based approaches to screening for colorectal and other cancers might have,” said Dr. Limburg. “Until then patients and their doctors need to focus on the many available options that are within the guidelines.”

Getting it Done

Accurate, evidence-based screening detected the silent cancer in Leanne Snow’s colon so she could receive effective treatment.

“People might think ‘If I don’t know about it, I don’t have to deal with it,’” said Snow. “With colon cancer, it’s better to know about it so you can deal with it.”

If you’re 45 or older, remember to prioritize colorectal cancer screening. Talk to your doctor about your screening options and visit Cologuard.com to learn more.

###

Citations

[1] Bretthauer B, Løberg M, Wieszczy P et al. Effect of Colonoscopy Screening on Risks of Colorectal Cancer and Related Death. New Engl J Med. 2022. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2208375

[2] Siegel RL, Miller KD, Jemal A. Cancer statistics, 2020. CA Cancer J Clin. 2020;70(1):7-30.

[3] Itzkowitz SH. Incremental advances in excremental cancer detection tests. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2009:101(18):1225-1227.

[4] National Cancer Institute. Cancer stat facts: Colorectal cancer. https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/colorect.html. Accessed September 25, 2020.

[5] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Use of Colorectal Cancer Screening Tests. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal/statistics/use-screening-tests-BRFSS.htm

[6] NCI. Gentics of colorectal cancer (PDQ) - health professional version. Accessed October 20, 2022. https://www.cancer.gov/types/colorectal/hp/colorectal-genetics-pdq#_235_toc

[7] Imperiale TF, Ransohoff DF, Itzkowitz SH, et al. Multitarget stool DNA testing for colorectal-cancer screening. N Engl J Med. 2014;370(14):1287-1297.

[8] Ahlquist DA. Multi-target stool DNA test: a new high bar for noninvasive screening. Dig Dis Sci. 2015;60(3):623-633.

* Exact Sciences estimate based on historical patient billing from October 1, 2019 – January 31, 2020. Rate of coverage varies by state and region. Exceptions for coverage may apply; only your insurer can confirm how Cologuard would be covered for you.

[9] Fendrick AM, Vahat, V, Chen JV, et al. Comparison of Simulated Outcomes Between Stool- and Blood-Based Colorectal Cancer Screening Tests. J of Clin Oncol. 2022; 40(16): s10529-10529. doi:10.1200/JCO.2022.40.16_suppl.10529

This article is available to download for free use in print and online publications. If you must edit the article, please include at least one brand reference. All articles must retain the (BPT) or Brandpoint byline.
Download this Article