FDA Panel Approves Safety of Guardant Blood Test for Colon Cancer – Generic English

The biggest problem with blood tests is that, unlike colonoscopies, they do not detect most precancerous growths on the colon that, if detected and removed, would prevent a person from developing cancer. This, said Dr. Stephen M. Hewitt, a board member of the National Cancer Institute, “really undermines the concept of cancer prevention.”

The test, said Charity J. Morgan, a committee member and professor of biostatistics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, “is better than nothing for patients who get nothing, but it’s no better than a colonoscopy.”

And there are many people who get nothing.

The FDA noted that one-third of people who should be screened for colorectal cancer are not screened, and more than 75 percent of those who have died were not screened.

If the agency approves the Guardant Health test, the hope is that it could dramatically change the discouraging colon cancer statistics by offering average-risk patients who refuse colonoscopy a convenient option to undergo screening.

Colon cancer is one of the few cancers that can actually be prevented with screening. This is because the disease begins slowly as a polyp, a small, harmless growth on the wall of the colon. Most polyps never cause problems, but some develop into cancer over time. If they are identified and eliminated, cancer is avoided.