, Volume 8, Issue 6, pp 492-498

Screening tests for colorectal cancer: A menu of options remains relevant

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Abstract

Until the early 1990s, no evidence was available to show that screening for colorectal cancer (CRC) by any means actually saved lives. Subsequently, sufficient evidence for the efficacy of fecal occult blood testing (FOBT) and flexible sigmoidoscopy allowed the US Preventive Services Task Force to publish guidelines for CRC screening. Since that time the major organizations in the United States concerned with screening guidelines have recommended a menu of screening test options including FOBT, flexible sigmoidoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy plus FOBT, barium enema, and colonoscopy. No organization, except for the American College of Gastroenterology, has designated any one of these options as “preferred.” Nevertheless, the lay press and many gastroenterology opinion leaders have encouraged Americans to have only one test—colonoscopy. In this review we discuss the rationale for caution in designating one screening test as “the best” and present information on how new stool and serum tests can be used effectively to screen for CRC.