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Nine immunological tests for colorectal cancer screening provide very similar results
According to health experts, colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers in Germany. The chances of recovery depend heavily on how early the cancer is discovered. German researchers have now taken a closer look at the effectiveness of various immunological tests for colorectal cancer screening and found that they all produce very similar results.
Early detection can save lives
Colon cancer is one of the most common cancers in Germany. Around 26,000 people die of it every year in Germany. The chances of recovery depend heavily on how early the cancer and its precursors are discovered. Since this year, new immunological tests for blood in the stool have been used. Scientists from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) have now compared nine of these tests. They found that they all gave comparable results.
Immunological tests examined
Colon cancer screening has become easier and more reliable this year. Immunological tests detect whether the blood pigment hemoglobin is in the stool. This serves as an indication of whether a patient has colon cancer or a pre-colon cancer.
The fact that the immunological tests replaced the less specific HämOccult test is largely due to the work of Hermann Brenner from the DKFZ, the institute wrote in a message.
There are currently numerous different immunological tests on the market.
"Until now it was unclear whether and to what extent there are differences between the tests offered," says epidemiologist Brenner. That is why he and his employees have subjected nine tests to a direct comparison.
Tests discover the vast majority of all colorectal cancers
The result: All nine tests discover the vast majority of all colorectal cancer diseases and also many colorectal cancer precursors. If one follows the information from the manufacturer, from which value a test is to be rated positive, then the frequencies of positive results differ greatly.
However, when the scientists adjusted the threshold values during the evaluation, all tests gave very similar results.
"In this work, we are providing a direct and unique worldwide comparison of the diagnostic value of a large number of quantitative tests in the same large group of study participants," said Brenner.
From these numbers, nationwide recommendations for the threshold values of individual tests could be derived.
Lower-threshold screening examination
"With this work, Brenner and colleagues give very specific recommendations on how to further improve the early detection of colorectal cancer," emphasized Michael Baumann, CEO of the DKFZ.
"In addition to the more complex colonoscopy, which is still the gold standard in colorectal cancer screening, it is important to offer people a lower-threshold screening examination."
Five of the nine tests require laboratory analysis. The remaining four tests can be carried out and evaluated directly in the general practitioner and urological practice.
Even the test, which is evaluated using a smartphone app, delivered reliable results - at least when it was carried out by trained personnel.
The researchers published their results in the journal "Gastroenteroolgy".
Third most common cancer worldwide
Colon cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide, according to the DKFZ. Every year, around 1.4 million people fall ill and 700,000 die. The same applies to colon cancer: the sooner you discover it, the better. Early detection can save lives.
Colonoscopy is considered the safest way to discover colon cancer and its precursors. But when should you have a colonoscopy? The examination is recommended if colon cancer has already occurred in the family.
In addition, all health insured persons in Germany who are legally insured from the age of 55 are entitled to colonoscopy.
According to experts, however, it would make sense to aim for a new age limit and to recommend the study from 50 years.
Unfortunately, the test procedure is complex and many patients shy away from it. Only 20 to 30 percent of the beneficiaries take part.
New immunological test procedures, which have been paid for by health insurers since April this year, are intended to help motivate more people to take a preventive medical check-up.
"It works very well for our neighbors in the Netherlands," explained Brenner. There, people are invited to participate with a personal letter - the test is sent directly. This means that participation rates of over 60 percent can be achieved. Germany is still a long way from this. (ad)