Simple stool test detects bowel cancer

By Ute Allison ND
– British Naturopathic Journal, Vol. 20, No. 2, 2003

An approved  ELISA test detects specific antibodies to Tumour M2 Pyruvate Kinase (M2-PK), an isomere that only tumour cells produce during their glucose metabolism. The test is not only more reliable than other screening tests but also far simpler. It is not invasive and no special diet is needed.

In the UK about 35,000 people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer every year. In England and Wales, this number is increasing by one per cent a year for men, although for women the total has been staying fairly constant.

About 16,000 people die of the disease every year, making it the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK – lung cancer being the most common. However, bowel cancer is highly treatable and often curable if detected early.

Surgery is the primary treatment and is successful in about 45 per cent of all patients. Prognosis is clearly related to the degree of penetration of the tumour through the bowel wall and the presence or absence of nodal involvement.

The risk of developing bowel cancer increases with age. The average age for men is 67, and for women it is 72. Only ten per cent of colorectal tumours appear in people under the age of 40.

Patients who have a history of bowel cancer in first grade relatives have a higher risk and there are certain predisposing genetic factors. Inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease) might increase the risk and dietary factors also seem to play a role. A diet that includes fibres, vegetables (such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage) and a limited intake of animal fats seems to lower the risk.

More than 90 per cent of bowel tumours develop from polyps (adenomas) which grow slowly and may not become malignant for some years. As they rarely cause symptoms most are only detected coincidentally during colonoscopy. Only large polyps cause changes in bowel movement. They can bleed, but usually so little that the patient may not be aware of it.

Signs

Among the warning signs of bowel cancer are:

  • Repeated rectal bleeding, or blood-stained stools.
  • Persistent change in the bowel habit (for six weeks) to looser bowel motions and/or needing to go to the toilet more frequently.
  • Persistent change in bowel habit (for six weeks) to severe constipation or to alternating loose movements and constipation.
  • Severe colicky abdominal pain.
  • Unexplained tiredness or weight loss.

If the tumour is very large complete blockage of the bowel can occur.

These symptoms do not definitely mean that the patient has bowel cancer but they should be taken seriously. To detect a tumour as early as possible patients over the age of 50 and those with an increased risk should be screened at regular intervals.

Until now there have been two main methods: sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. Polyps (adenomas) identified during examination
can be removed at an early stage. One reason cited against this screening method is that it can be uncomfortable and embarrassing, making patients reluctant to undergo it.

Faecal occult blood testing (FOB) is another popular method, but one limitation is that only about 30 per cent of all tumours bleed. There is also the problem of false positive results. So FOB has a sensitivity of only about 23 per cent (about 76 per cent in combination with sigmoidoscopy).

New stool test

There is now a new ELISA test on the market that detects specific antibodies to Tumour M2 Pyruvate Kinase (M2-PK), an isomere that only tumour cells produce during their glucose metabolism.

Antibody levels increase with the presence of any tumour, which is secreting this metabolic product into the intestines.
Even oesophageal cancer can be detected with this test, which has an 84 per cent sensitivity and an 80 per cent specificity.
This makes this test not only more reliable than other screening tests but also far simpler. Unlike FOB, no special dietary precautions are required and a single stool sample is enough, which the patient can collect at home.

The test is undertaken at the Laboratory Dr Hauss, in Germany, through the Biological Testing Service – contact us for more information.

Anticancer Research, 2003, 23, 851-854.

Ute Allison ND, qualified as a Heilpraktiker in Hannover, Germany in 1992. She is a member of the VDH (Verband Deutscher Heilpraktiker) and the British Naturopathic Association, and is a lecturer for the CNM (College of Naturopathic and Complementary Medicine).