Test for Colon Cancer Missed by Millions

Almost half of the people who need potentially lifesaving checks for the nation's No. 2 cancer killer, colorectal cancer missed. Regardless of the years of public efforts to make colon screening as widespread as tests for breast and prostate cancer, people neglected.

As soon as the California health care giant Kaiser Permanente started mailing those tests to patients due for a colon check, its screening rates increased well above the national average.

Now Kaiser and the Veterans Affairs health system are being looked by the scientists, which also stresses stool tests, for clues to what might encourage more people to get screened. If early signs of trouble are detected colorectal cancer can be prevented, not just treated.

"By overselling and overpromising colonoscopies, we've put up barriers for people to get any type of screening”, said Dr. T.R. Levin, Kaiser Permanente's colorectal cancer Screening Chief in northern California.

Everyone was supposed to be diagnosed for colorectal cancer, but only 55% did. Colonoscopy is as one-stop shopping; you get screened and can get treated with one intervention", explained NIH panel member Dr. Lawrence Friedman of Harvard Medical School and Tufts University.