The second leading cause of death in the United States is colon cancer, according to CBS News. That may be in part due to the invasive screening methods like a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy, which is recommended every 10 years for adults over 50. About 23 million adults - that's 60 percent - who should get screened don't.
Colonoscopies and sigmoidoscopies are the best way to be screened, according to cancer.gov, but a home test called Cologuard was approved by the FDA in August. Cologuard is basically a fecal occult test, where stool is checked for blood and cancerous cells. A sample is taken at home and then sent to a lab for testing.
If the test is positive, a follow up colonoscopy is required, according to the Associated Press via NewsMax. The only true test of the at home kits efficacy is time. Since the kit is new, it is hard to tell what the results will be in the long run. Cologuard misses more pre-cancers than a colonoscopy would, Dartmouth professor Dr. Harold Sox told the AP. Cologuard also only accurately ruled out colon cancer 87 percent of the time, as opposed to 95 percent for the typical invasive procedures.
"One could look at it and say that's a glass half empty, half full," Dr. Barnett Kramer, a National Cancer Institute screening expert and former head of the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, told the AP. Thirteen percent of people who had a follow up colonoscopy didn't need it, but at least they had a screening in the first place.
Another downside to the test is the cost. Cologuard costs $599 (in-office stool tests cost around $25) and "you don't know whether you need to take it every year - intervals have not been tested," Kramer told the AP.
If you used Cologuard every three years, you would spend $1,800, which is the typical cost of a colonoscopy that is good for 10 years and is covered by insurance, according to CBS News. Medicare will cover the in-home test, but private insurers have not so far.
The test kit will be available by prescription at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, where it was developed, and afterward, nationwide, according to NewsMax. The Mayo Clinic and one of its doctors will receive royalties from the purchase of each kit.
Georgetown University family doctor and former staff physician for the preventive services task force, Dr. Kenneth Lin, said to the AP, "You'd rather have more options than not, but I don't think there's enough data to declare this test superior to any other test."
Lin added, "It definitely has some promise."