Friday, November 28, 2008

Testing for Cancer at Home

A new Canadian campaign advocating home screening for colorectal cancer could reduce deaths from the disease by catching it early, when it is often asymptomatic but also highly curable. The term colorectal cancer refers to both cancer of the colon and cancer of the rectum. It's the third most common cancer in the United States. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, symptoms include changes in bowel habits, bright red or very dark blood in the stool, diarrhea or constipation, narrowed stools, abdominal discomfort, unexplained weight loss, exhaustion and vomiting.

If the test detects blood in the stool, a follow-up test like a colonoscopy is used to check for colon polyps, or growths, or cancer. The exam is recommended biannually for those over 50, or for those with an increased risk of colon cancer, such as people with a first-degree relative who has had the disease or who have had a fecal occult test come back positive.
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