Unexpectedly Intriguing!
October 10, 2007

Have you inherited bad genes? Do you want to find out if you're more likely to have colon cancer as a result of your genetic makeup? Would you (or your insurance company) rather pay \$300 or \$3000 to find out if that's the case?

Political Calculations' latest health-related tool is based upon a simple formula that, when combined with a \$300 lab test, can determine whether your colon cancer has bad genes as a contributing factor. The new method is reported to have a two-thirds likelihood of confirming whether errant genes are a contributing factor behind a patient's colon cancer and is an alternative to an existing medical test that costs \$3,000. Those potential savings are something that we can see adding up quite quickly, as colon cancer is the second-most frequent killer of U.S. cancer patients as only lung cancer claims more lives.

The tool below is aimed at those who have already been diagnosed with colon cancer and may be used to find the likelihood that those individuals have the genetic mutation that may have contributed to their condition. Just enter the appropriate data below and the tool will provide the probability that this might be the case:

Patient Data
Input Data Values
What is the patient's Age at time of diagnosis of colon cancer (years)?
What is the patient's Gender? (Female or Male)
What is the Location of the patient's tumors (Proximal or Distal)?
Proximal includes any of the following sites: Splenic Flexure, Transverse Colon, Ascending Colon/Hepatic Flexure, Caecum, Appendix.
Are Synchronous and/or Metachronous Tumors Present? (No or Yes)
Family History Data
Is colorectal cancer in the patient's first-degree Family History? (No or Yes)
If at least one first-degree relative has had colorectal cancer, was the youngest affected relative under Age 50? (No or Yes)
Is Endometrial Cancer in the patient's first-degree family history (No or Yes)?

Probability of Colon Cancer Arising from Genetic Factors
Calculated Results Values
Probability (%)

The formula's creators have their own online tool for doing this same math, but their interface is less direct for gathering needed information from their tool's users. Their site also provides additional data and information about followup testing that medical staff may use to refine and confirm their findings.

Going back to the economics, Fox News provides some of the background behind the development of the formula for screening colon cancer patients:

They come from a huge effort to analyze every case of colon cancer in Scotland from 1999 to mid-2003 involving people under 55. All cancers are caused by bad genes, but ones diagnosed earlier in life are more likely to be from inherited mutations.

The most common of these mutations cause the Lynch syndrome, a type of colon cancer that progresses very quickly. These mutations also raise the risk of uterine, ovarian and other forms of cancer, making it important to identify relatives who may be carriers.

But doing \$3,000 genetic tests on every colon cancer patient to find the 4 percent who have such mutations is expensive and impractical, considering that 150,000 Americans and 500,000 people worldwide are diagnosed with the disease each year.

For our part, we'll note that testing all 150,000 Americans diagnosed with colon cancer each year to identify if they carry the mutated genes that lead to the disease would cost \$450 million (at \$3,000 per test). For our money, replacing a \$3,000 test with the tool above and a \$300 test for those with a high probabiliy of the genetic mutation to better screen patients and make their treatment more effective makes a lot of sense.

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