Cancer impacts all of us, yet it can be difficult to stay up to date on the latest in cancer screening and treatment guidance. Exact Sciences has teamed up with Katie Couric’s Wake-Up Call to debunk some of the most common cancer myths. Read an excerpt below.
Almost everyone has been touched by cancer— whether personally, or through a friend or loved one— and it’s a topic that Katie and all of us here at KCM are always eager to learn more about. KCM has teamed up with Exact Sciences, a company on the cutting edge of early cancer detection. Katie recently sat down with their CEO Kevin Conroy along with Dr. Paul Limburg, Chief Medical Officer for Screening for Exact Sciences to discuss crucial breakthroughs in early detection, treatment options, and screenings.
Their conversation helped us debunk some of the most common myths about cancer, which we’re sharing here so you can stay informed about the latest advancements in cancer screening and technology.
Myth Number 1: A colonoscopy is the only way to get screened for colorectal cancer
Colorectal cancer is the second deadliest cancer in men and women, but if caught early, the survival rate is 90%, and regular screening is the best way to detect colorectal cancer early. While colonoscopies are still the most common for colon cancer screening, they can be time consuming and invasive. Unfortunately for a long time, they were the only way to detect this type of cancer.
Fortunately in 2014, the FDA approved an at home screening test called Cologuard®, which detects colorectal cancer including early-stage colorectal cancer and precancerous polyps by testing DNA taken from a stool sample. You may remember seeing their commercials which feature a particularly cheerful cartoon stool sample box: “I’m as easy as get, go, gone!” Cologuard is intended to screen adults 45 and older at average risk for colorectal cancer. Rx only. For full Indications and Important Risk Information see Cologuard.com/risk-information.
Since it first arrived on the scene, Cologuard has been used by more than 5 million people. This type of easy access screening has proved to be particularly crucial over the past year. In a three-month period ending June 5th 2020, an estimated 1.7 million colonoscopies were missed, as many Americans pushed off their regular screenings amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Some people are slowly returning to the doctor’s office and while others remain at home, physicians with a backlog of colonoscopies are turning more and more to products like Cologuard. Conroy reports that in the spring of 2020, thousands of doctors prescribed Cologuard for the first time.
According to Dr. Limburg, “Having a test like Cologuard, where the test can be shipped to someone’s home, the sample can be collected at home, and can be mailed back from home is a great way to meet patients where they are, rather than having to make them travel to where clinicians are.”
Myth Number 2: All forms of breast cancer require chemotherapy treatment
Not all breast cancer is the same— and we shouldn’t treat it that way. That’s why it’s crucial for people living with breast cancer to understand what type of treatment their cancer is going to best respond to. Kevin Conroy, CEO of Exact Sciences, explained to Katie how technology can save some breast cancer patients from the physical and emotional toll of undergoing chemotherapy, while identifying the important minority for whom chemotherapy can be potentially life-saving*: “Most people with early stage breast cancer don’t benefit from chemotherapy, yet many go through with it. The Oncotype DX® test is a great example of how we can avoid over or under treatment of breast cancer. Prior to the test, most women with early stage breast cancer went on to receive chemotherapy. Today, as a standard of care in this country, there is a test that can provide a patient with estrogen receptor-positive early breast cancer insight as to whether or not they will benefit from chemotherapy by looking at the RNA of their cancer cells.”
The hope is that in the not so distant future, this type of test will be available for other cancers, so nobody with cancer will have to endure chemo treatment if they won’t benefit from it. Unfortunately, you still can’t get a mammogram from the comfort of your own home, so women should make sure to talk to their healthcare provider about when to schedule an annual mammogram.
*Sparano JA et al. N Engl J Med. 2018.
To read more of Katie's conversation with Kevin and Dr. Limburg, and to get the truth on even more cancer myths, head to Katiecouric.com!