A pioneer study led by a Catalan hospital supports an easier way to detect colon cancer

Barcelona’s Hospital Clínic has coordinated a world pioneer medical study with 60,000 patients. The study has compared the effectiveness of early detection of colon cancer by using a colonoscopy or a specific analysis searching blood in the patients’ faeces. The findings have proven that both diagnostic tests are equally reliable. Considering the differences between the financial costs of both tests, health risks, and comfort, colonoscopy might only be used for confirmation or treatment purposes. In addition, from now on all people older than 50 might be regularly checked in an easier and cheaper manner.


February 24, 2012 12:02 AM

Barcelona (ACN).- Colon cancer might be more easily detected thanks to a world pioneer study coordinated by Barcelona’s Hospital Clínic. The Catalan hospital has coordinated, together with another from the Canary Islands, a study on the early detection of colon cancer. Results show that analysing blood in the patients faeces is as reliable as a colonoscopy test to detect colon cancer. This type of cancer is the second most lethal cancer in Spain, and its early detection is crucial for a high survival rate. The study was carried out with 60,000 patients from across Spain. The number of cancers detected using both methods, which were used randomly, has been identical and the majority of them were in an early stage of its development. Furthermore, the study showed that medical complications derived from both diagnostic tests are minimal, but still are smaller in the faeces analysis. The study opens the door to a cheaper, safer and more comfortable way of detecting colon cancer, which might increase the number of tests and thus of early diagnosis. People between the ages of 50 and 70 years old are those most at risk to suffer from this cancer, however they could now be easily and more regularly checked for prevention purposes. The medical journal ‘The New England Journal of Medicine’ has published the study, being the first time this prestigious journal has published a study fully developed in Spain, according to a press release by the Hospital Clínic.

For the first time in the world, the two types of tests used to detect colon cancer have been compared in a broad medical study: analysing the blood hidden in the patients’ faeces and a colonoscopy. 60,000 people from Aragon, the Canary Islands, Catalonia, Galicia, the Community of Madrid, the Region of Murcia, the Basque Country and the Valencian Community have participated in the medical study, which was funded by the Spanish Association Against Cancer (AECC) and the Health Institute Carlos III. The study was coordinated by Barcelona’s Hospital Clínic and the Canary Islands’ University Hospital Complex, in Tenerife.

The study randomly allocated one of the two types of tests to each of the 60,000 participants. The aim was to discover which test was better accepted by the patients and which test is more effective to detect colon cancer. The research concluded that participation is higher regarding the faeces analysis test (34%) than regarding colonoscopy (25%), as the first is more easily accepted by patients. Furthermore, 1,600 people asked to change their colonoscopy –an exploratory test that needs to be done every 10 years– for the detection of hidden blood in faces –a non-invasive test that needs to be done every two years–.

“The current detection techniques of hidden blood in faeces are so sensitive that enable the detection of the same types of cancers that we could find using the colonoscopy technique and more than half of the initial injuries –the adenomatous polyps– in a single test”, stated Dr- Quintero, one of the doctors responsible for the study.

One out of every 20 people will develop colon or rectum cancer in their lifetime. The good news is that this type of cancer, which is the second most lethal in Spain, is one of the few that can be detected in its most early stage, much earlier than the person starts noticing any symptoms. In fact, according to the Clínic Hospital, if colon cancer was always detected in its early stage, currently 90% of all patients would be cured. The population with the highest risk of suffering from this type of cancer are both men and women aged between 50 and 69 years old.