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THE NATION

New colon cancer testing

Health experts issue updated screening guidelines that include procedures that are less invasive.

March 06, 2008|From the Associated Press

ATLANTA — Medical experts recommended Wednesday that a less-invasive procedure known as a virtual colonoscopy and a stool DNA test join the arsenal of screenings for colon cancer in the hopes that more people would get checked out.

The recommendations bring to six the number of screening tests suggested for spotting signs of colon cancer, said Dr. Otis Brawley, national chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, one of the groups that made the recommendations.

The tests range in price from a few dollars to several hundred. Which test is best for patients depends on several factors, including what a patient's insurer covers and the preference of a primary care doctor, experts said.

Only one company has a stool DNA test on the market -- EXACT Sciences Corp. of Marlborough, Mass.

The medical groups delayed releasing the recommendations until financial markets closed Wednesday because they were concerned it would affect trading, Brawley said.

The recommendations may also mean more business for radiologists.

There has been something of a turf battle between gastroenterologists, who perform colonoscopies, and radiologists, who handle virtual colonoscopies.

The new guidelines represent an agreement that both are valuable ways to diagnose and prevent colon cancer, Brawley said.

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