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New Mayo Clinic home test starts screening for colon cancer

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A colon cancer take-home screening test is available in Minnesota starting Monday.

The Star Tribune notes that the new Cologuard test will appeal to millions of people who may have avoided colon cancer screening due to the invasive nature of a diagnostic colonoscopy and what the story calls the "icky preparation" required by traditional methods. Last month, the test was approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It will be offered by prescription at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, where it was developed. It will soon be available across the country.

FOX 9 explains that the take-home screening test looks for blood that could suggest a tumor and detects DNA that could indicate signs of cancer. Clinical pre trials suggest Cologuard detects 92 percent of cancer and polyps in the colon, and 69 percent of high-risk pre-cancers. Patients taking the test send a stool sample to a lab where it is tested. If the test is positive, the next step is a colonoscopy.

The test is shipped to a person's home and he or she simply mounts the test on the toilet seat, "handles their business," as the FOX 9 story puts it, and sends the sample to a lab. After two weeks, patients learn their results.

The Cologuard testing costs $599. Medicare covers the new test but private insurers aren't covering it yet. The test is sold by Exact Sciences Corp. of Madison, Wisconsin. Rochester's Mayo Clinic and one of its doctors will get royalties from the test.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States and the fourth worldwide. More than 143,000 new cases and 52,000 deaths from the disease are expected this year in the U.S. alone. People over age 50 have been advised to get a colonoscopy screening test, but only about 60 percent of those recommended to get screened now do.

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