I read last Sunday’s article “Mayo Clinic lobbies for noninvasive test for colon cancer” with great interest. The article describes the efforts of the Mayo Clinic to gain approval for Cologuard, a new non-invasive screening test for colorectal cancer. Although the article correctly summarizes a recent study suggesting that this new test can identify more than 90 percent of colorectal cancers, it neglects to mention that it misses almost 60 percent of advanced precancerous colon polyps (abnormal growths which are likely to transform into colorectal cancers over time). Colonoscopy remains the single best test for detecting both precancerous colon polyps and colorectal cancer, and the only test which can both identify and remove precancerous growths throughout the colon.
Dozens of health care organizations nationwide, including the American Cancer Society, have committed to the goal of getting 80 percent of eligible adults screened for colorectal cancer by the year 2018. Since the current screening rate hovers around 60 percent (even lower in Idaho), this is an ambitious goal indeed. Thanks to colonoscopy and polyp removal, the rate of colorectal cancer has dropped 30 percent nationwide over the past 10 years. So please talk to your doctor about this important test — it could save your life.
Mark A. Mallory, M.D., FACG Idaho Governor for the American College of Gastroenterology