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Cancer screening

Posted: October 30, 2014 9:08 a.m.
Updated: October 31, 2014 1:00 a.m.

We wrote recently of a change in the way KershawHealth is managing its emergency department, sending seriously threatened patients to one area for immediate, vital care while directing others who are less ill to be treated in a non-emergency system. It’s cost-effective, but also provides quality care for both types of patients.

And now we come to another health care procedure which might not be for everyone but which can serve as a valuable tool. It’s a way to screen for colon and rectal cancer, but it’s far less invasive and troubling than colonoscopies, which are the gold standard for such screening -- but at a high price, both financial and physical. Anyone who’s been through a colonoscopy can tell you it’s no fun, especially the day-before cleansing procedure, which requires a great deal of bad-tasting liquid combined with extensive time sitting on a toilet.

Fecal immunochemical tests aren’t as accurate as colonoscopies, but they cost far less and they can appeal to some people who simply refuse to endure the dreaded colonoscopy procedure. Part of the effectiveness of colonoscopies is that they catch polyps early, while the fecal tests won’t do that. But at a tiny fraction of the cost, the fecal test, which is easy to do, could well convince many people who haven’t previously been tested to do so.

Nobody’s arguing the fecal tests are as good as colonoscopies, but they are a useful alternative, and certainly they are far, far better than nothing.

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