In the future, doctors may be able to use a stool sample to detect cancers of the digestive tract. The Mayo Clinic scientists developed the test as a way to detect colon cancer, but they were excited to find that the test also identified 75 percent of gallbladder cancers, 65 percent of esophageal cancers, and 62 percent of pancreatic cancers as well as 100 percent of stomach and colorectal cancers.

The test picks up altered DNA markers that are typical of digestive tract tumors. Fortunately, the test showed no cancers in 70 healthy people, so it may offer a way to detect GI cancers early. Gastrointestinal cancers account for 25 percent of cancer deaths in the US.

[Digestive Diseases Week annual meeting, Chicago, 2009]

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