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"Groundbreaking" colon cancer test developed by Wisconsin company

 Colorectal cancer is the second biggest killer among all cancers, that's according to the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC also says early detection is key in surviving a bout with this type of cancer.

However, almost half the people who should be getting screened are not getting screened, a Madison-based company says it has the solution, and it's being called a game changer.

 “For the first time, we can detect precancerous polyps non-invasively, and that's a big deal,” said Kevin Conroy, CEO of Exact Sciences.

The test is called Cologuard. It's an in-home test for colon cancer. Its developers say unlike a colonoscopy, you don't need to stop eating for a day, you don't need drugs to put you under, and it only takes minutes.

 “For anybody that's been putting off getting screened, there's really not a good excuse anymore,” said John Kisiel, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

Kisiel is part of the team that helped develop Cologuard.

 “It is highly accurate for cancer, it can detect large polyps very well, and that makes it suitable as a first line screening test,” Kisiel said.

Clinical trials show Cologuard detected more than 90 percent of colon cancers.

But it's not just about accuracy, it's about how easy it is to use.

A doctor prescribes the test, it's shipped to your house, you follow the directions to provide a stool sample, seal it up, and send it to the lab in Madison, where they can accommodate up to a million tests per year.

Once the samples are in the lab, they go into a machine used to look for the mutating DNA that are early signs of cancer.

Medicare started covering the test last month, which came after the FDA approved Cologuard back in August.  In the FDA's release, it said “…if everyone age 50 or older had regular screening tests as recommended, at least 60 percent of colorectal cancer deaths could be avoided.”

 “That's how we think we're going to win the war against cancer. Not with designer pharmaceuticals, but by detecting early when cancer is curable,” Conroy said.

If Cologuard does show a positive result for colon cancer, a colonoscopy would still be needed to confirm the diagnosis. 
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