London - Researchers have demonstrated that a simple, cheap test can help identify who is at risk of developing colorectal cancer, aiding early diagnosis and potentially saving lives.
Colorectal cancer has a high mortality rate - each year, 1.8 million cases are diagnosed worldwide, and the disease causes global 900,000 deaths annually.
"Our findings are very exciting -- we show that this simple and inexpensive test performs exceptionally well in this group of patients with low-risk symptoms, to quickly and accurately tell us who is likely to not have colorectal cancer, and who should be referred for investigation," said researcher Sarah Bailey from the University of Exeter.
For the study, published in the British Journal of Cancer, the team examined data from nearly 4,000 patients aged 50 and over.
The study involved all healthcare providers in the South West of England taking a new approach.
Over six months, they provided the faecal immunochemical test (FIT), which costs around 4 pound and can pick up traces of hidden blood in faeces.
The test was given to anyone with low-risk symptoms of colorectal cancer -- that is, symptoms can be caused by bowel cancer but are also very often caused by other things -- such as stomach ache, unexplained weight loss, or anaemia.
Prior to this, there was no easy to do test available for people with low risk symptoms of colorectal cancer.
Of those, 618 tested positive for blood in their faeces, 43 of whom had received a diagnosis of colorectal cancer within 12 months. In the group that tested negative, only eight were diagnosed with colorectal cancer a year later.(Agency)