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Mayo Clinic accepting colon tests by mail

Mayo Clinic accepting colon tests by mail

Rochester's Mayo Clinic began administering a new colon test Monday that allows patients to take the screening at home.

Here's what you need to know:

  1. Mayo's role: Some of its researchers worked on the Colorguard, which is now being developed by Exact Sciences Corp. in Madison, Wis. 

  2. Insurance: The take-home test will be offered by prescription at Mayo for $599. Medicare reimburses most of the cost, but private insurances do not currently cover the home test. 

  3. The test: The kit is shipped to your house. All you have to do is collect a stool sample and mail it to a lab. Researchers will look for two things: blood that could suggest a tumor and DNA that could be a sign of cancer. 

  4. Results: If you test positive, you'll be called in a for a full diagnostic colonoscopy. But if you're clean, you just avoided what many would describe as a very unpleasant experience.

  5. Accuracy: Like any innovation, there are some pros and cons. It's been proven to be more effective in screening for colorectal cancer; but it's also more likely to have a false positive test, creating more false alarms. The consensus: researchers need time to study the long-term effects of the new Colorguard.

On one hand, the test could greatly boost screening for a deadly disease that too few people get checked for now.

On the other hand, it could lure people away from colonoscopies and other tests that, unlike the new one, have been shown to save lives.

It might even do both.
— AP report, Oct. 26

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 in the U.S. in 2014.

According to Mayo's website, "people with an average risk of colon cancer can consider screening beginning at age 50. But people with an increased risk, such as those with a family history of colon cancer, should consider screening sooner. African-Americans and American Indians may consider beginning colon cancer screening at age 45."

(Cover photo: Mayo Clinic)

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