Survival is much improved when diagnosed early, hence the importance of screening tests to enable a diagnosis as early as possible.
The incidence of this type of cancer increases with age, with the majority of cases occurring in those over the age of 50. For this reason, the majority of professional bodies and guidelines recommend starting screening tests at the age of 50, bearing in mind that each person’s case must be assessed individually to more accurately estimate that person’s risk. Tests performed on samples of faeces are amongst the most straight-forward due to their ease and affordability, they are basically of three types: those which detect occult blood in stools, and “multitarget” tests which also detect genetic mutations associated with this type of cancer. Below we explain these tests in more detail.
There are two main types:
The following table summarises these tests:A positive result from any of these tests, requires more specific testing, in other words colonoscopy. This facilitates the detection of the cause of the positive result, as in many cases it will not be due to a malignant tumour. It also enables the removal of small lesions such as polyps.
The study of each person’s individual case is still recommended to ascertain their potential risk and select the most appropriate method of testing in each case.