We do a lot of colonoscopies in this country, looking for colon cancer. And that’s a good thing.
But do people realize that the only screening test for colon cancer shown by randomized controlled trials to decrease colon cancer mortality and incidence is fecal occult blood testing (FOBT)? It’s an inexpensive (about $20) at-home test kit that often seems to get lost in the enthusiasm for in-office higher-tech procedures like standard colonoscopy – or its new sibling, virtual colonoscopy.
This week, a study in Health Affairs reminds us about the relative benefits of FOBT. And it’s about time. Kaiser Permanente in California thinks highly enough about FOBT that it mails test kits to subscribers to use at home. From a public health perspective – trying to reach as many people as possible with a cost-effective approach – it sure seems to make sense.
Katie Hobson writes about this study on the Wall Street Journal health blog and includes links to the Health Affairs study and to a MedPageToday.com story, “Virtual Colonoscopy Misses Mark on Cost.” See Katie’s story and visit those links if you’re interested in learning more.
Meantime, one message for journalists is to include a discussion of FOBT whenever discussing colon cancer screening. It seems incomplete and imbalanced not to do so.
And a possible message for consumers (although we don’t give medical advice on this blog), ask your physician about FOBT whenever other colon cancer screening methods (e.g., colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy) are brought up.
Why NOT talk about the evidence for (or against) FOBT?