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What happened

After the company announced preliminary fourth-quarter figures that are better than what industry watchers were expecting, shares in Exact Sciences (EXAS -0.06%) were soaring 19.3% higher today at 2 p.m. EST.

So what

Colonoscopies may be the gold standard in colon-cancer screening, but they are expensive and invasive, and as a result, sales of Exact Sciences' Cologuard, a non-invasive colon-cancer screening test, continued to climb in the fourth quarter.

In the quarter, the company completed approximately 82,000 Cologuard tests, which represents growth of 114% from the same period in 2015. Completion volume translated into sales of between $34.9 million and $35.4 million for the fourth quarter, leading management to peg full-year 2016 sales at $99 million, up 150% from 2015.

To gain more perspective on the quarterly results, consider that the company completed just 40,000 Cologuard tests in the first quarter of 2016.

Now what

Exact Sciences estimates that up to 80 million Americans are eligible for colon-cancer screening, and management believes that the addressable market could be valued at as much as $4 billion.

Undeniably, there's significant, and growing, demand for new screening alternatives, and that's a bullish sign for sales. However, investors will want to wait for the final fourth-quarter numbers to find out how the company is doing at managing its costs. In Q3, the company's operating expenses dwarfed sales, resulting in a quarterly net loss of $37.8 million.

Assuming Exact Sciences' expenses fall as a percentage of sales, and management offers a pathway to profitability, then this company could be worth owning in growth portfolios. Since Cologuard was added to national screening guidelines last year, insurance coverage of the test has expanded by 67%, to 163 million people. That suggests a lot of opportunity for growth.