December 10th, 2021

Why This Early-Stage Cancer Detector is on my Watchlist

Dear Rebel Investor,

I’ll never forget when my mom was diagnosed with bladder cancer.

A year after the diagnosis, she was dead.

Bladder cancer also hit my dad.

But not only is he still alive, he suffers no ill effects from the disease.

So what was the difference between my mom’s cancer and my dad’s?

Advances in cancer screenings and diagnostics.

See, my mom came down with her cancer in 1976.

Dad’s cancer happened about 40 years later.

And the improvements in cancer screenings and diagnostics during those four decades have been incredible.

Advances in an early cancer detection tool called the cystoscope saved my dad’s life

The cystoscope is a tube-like instrument inserted into the urethra for examining the bladder.

That procedure is called a cystoscopy.

While they’ve been performed since the late 1800s, today’s cystoscopes feature advances early users could only dream about.

Late 19th and early 20th century versions used reflective mirrors that allowed doctors to see the interior of the bladder.

Unfortunately, these views were often cloudy, which created a lot of guesswork on behalf of urologists.

Things improved throughout the 20th Century, thanks to refinements in optical imaging systems.

Then in 1983, breakthroughs in fiber optics technology allowed for the use of video.

That enabled urologists to stop watching camera systems during the procedure and instead concentrate on controlling complex endoscopic interventions.

In my dad’s case, his cystoscopy detected a tumor on the inner wall of his bladder.

That discovery warranted a minimally invasive procedure called transurethral resection, which involves using a cystoscope to “pluck” the tumor away.

My mom wasn’t so lucky.

I don’t remember the specifics of how they treated her, but doctors didn’t catch her cancer early enough.

So they had to remove her bladder.

But by then it was too late, as they later learned her cancer had spread to her lungs.

Biotechnology breakthroughs continue to improve cancer screenings and diagnostics

Perhaps the biggest advancements are in colon cancer.

To say colon cancer is deadly would be an understatement – it takes over 50,000 American lives every year and is the second leading cancer killer in the U.S.

In fact, one in three people diagnosed with the disease will die from it.

Your best bet to survive colon cancer?

Early detection.

That brings me to the dreaded colonoscopy.

The procedure involves sedation, then inserting a flexible, lighted tube called a colonoscope into your rectum.

That tool not only allows the physician to inspect your entire colon for polyps or cancer, but to remove them as well.

Because of its ability to detect and remove colon cancer growths, the colonoscopy is considered the gold standard for early colon cancer treatment.

Yet many people who should get one, don’t (the American Cancer Society says anyone from 45 to 75 should get a colonoscopy every 10 years).

That’s because the procedure is far from fun…

  • You have to undergo an uncomfortable bowel cleansing in preparation
  • You have to be sedated
  • There’s a risk of suffering internal bleeding and a perforated colon
  • The procedure can give you infection
  • And it can cause significant abdominal pain

For these reasons and more, many people forgo a colonoscopy for an at-home colon cancer screening test.

The two main at-home alternatives to colonoscopies

The first is called a fecal immunochemical test (FIT).

The second, Cologuard.

Both involve taking fecal samples and sending them to a lab for interpretation.

FIT tests for hidden blood in the stool, which can be an early sign of cancer.

Cologuard also looks for the presence of blood, as well as abnormal DNA markers.

These markers may indicate certain kinds of abnormal growths related to colon cancer, or precursors to cancer.

There are other differences between these two colon cancer screenings.

FIT tests are designed to be done every year, while Cologuard is done every three years.

FIT tests involve sending a small fecal sample, while Cologuard requires an entire bowel movement.

FIT tests kits are much less expensive than Cologuard’s ($30 vs. $649).

These tests also have some things in common.

Here’s the most important one…

Cologuard and FIT tests have high rates of false positives

For Cologuard, that rate is 12%.

FIT’s is over twice as high at 25%.

Obviously, a false positive is the last thing you want from an at-home test for colorectal cancer.

Besides the obvious jolt of fear it would produce, it would probably scare you into getting a colonoscopy.

Fortunately, a new home colon cancer screening alternative exists.

Right now, it’s only available in Europe.

The test has the blessing of Europe’s version of the FDA (the European Medicines Agency – EMA).

And it’s the first colorectal cancer screening test in Europe that can detect tumor DNA in the stool.

A 2018 study suggests that this technology enables it to detect colon cancer much earlier than FIT or Cologuard.

And, the company that manufactures ColoAlert, Mainz Biomned, just completed its IPO on the Nasdaq on Thursday, under the ticker symbol MYNZ.

We’re watching this company very closely and we’ll keep you posted on developments.

In the meantime – take care of yourself, and if you’ve got any nagging health concerns, see your doctor as soon as you can.

I don’t want you to end up like my mom.

Doug Fogel
Contributing Editor, Dear Retail Investors

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