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Patient error makes 1 in 10 home colon cancer tests unusable

Patient error makes 1 in 10 home colon cancer tests unusable

At-home tests for colon cancer make this important screening readily available to folks who can't afford or would rather not go through a colonoscopy.

Unfortunately, more than 1 in 10 at-home tests sent to a lab are unusable, mainly due to mistakes made by the patient, a new study reports.

"The study underscores the importance of addressing breakdowns in the , particularly in specimen collection and labeling," researcher Rasmi Nair, an assistant professor of public health at UT Southwestern in Dallas, said in a news release.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that people who are between 45 and 75 be regularly screened for .

One option is a (FIT), which uses antibodies to detect blood in the stool that's not visible to the eye.

These tests are done once a year, and are cheaper and easier than procedures like colonoscopy, researchers said.

For the test, a person takes a sample of their stool, labels it, and then sends it to a lab for analysis.

Nair and her colleagues suspected that many of these tests couldn't be processed properly due to patient mistakes, so they looked at in-home fecal immunochemical tests sent in by nearly 57,000 people between 2010 and 2019.

The tests were all submitted by people being treated at Parkland Health, a safety net hospital in Dallas County that serves as UT Southwestern's primary teaching hospital.

Researchers found that more than 10% of FIT samples couldn't be processed by the lab.

In about half of those cases (51%), the patient hadn't taken an adequate stool specimen.

Other problems included incomplete labeling (27%), a specimen that was too old (13%), or leaking or broken specimen containers (8%), researchers said.

Failure rates were higher among patients who were male, Black, Spanish-speaking or on Medicaid, results show.

In addition, patients who received their kit in the mail rather than from a health care professional were at greater risk of making a mistake that would render the sample unusable, researchers found.

These results show the need for better patient education on taking and sending a sample, as well as improved -tracking procedures and timely follow-up when a sample isn't usable, researchers said.

These findings should apply to other sorts of at-home tests as well, Nair added.

"Our findings could impact other at-home tests such as fecal DNA tests for CRC [] screening and future home testing for , for instance," she said. "Understanding the reasons for unsatisfactory home tests, implementing automatic ordering of subsequent tests, and ensuring appropriate completion of tests and follow-up become increasingly important."

The findings were recently published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

More information: Po-Hong Liu et al, Unsatisfactory Fecal Immunochemical Tests for Colorectal Cancer Screening: Prevalence, Reasons, and Subsequent Testing, Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention (2023). DOI: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-23-0507

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Citation: Patient error makes 1 in 10 home colon cancer tests unusable (2023, December 24) retrieved 15 July 2024 from
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