With the recent release of a colonoscopy study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, news spread quickly through large media outlets suggesting colonoscopies may not be as effective at reducing cancer deaths as previously thought. Regardless of these news stories, this one study’s findings shouldn’t deter anyone from getting checked for colorectal cancer. Numerous studies have been done to show colonoscopy effectiveness in early cancer detection and prevention. Colonoscopies remain the gold standard with advancements to equipment, preparation guidelines and training. Since colorectal cancer is the second deadliest form of cancer, it’s imperative to dispel any thoughts on delaying or ignoring talking to a physician about colorectal cancer screening.
Our own Dr. Pradeep Kumar laid out the facts on a recent FOX 7 segment. Dr. Sanaa Arastu also spoke to the Austin American Statesman on the subject and made and appearance on KXAN to set the record straight. The bottom line: colonoscopies do save lives as long as the procedure is performed with current national guidelines in mind.
Below is more information on the recent study and some considerations regarding the recent media coverage.
- Followed 85,000 people living in four countries in Europe
- One third received a letter inviting them to have a colonoscopy, the others received no colorectal cancer screening
- 10 years later, colon cancer risk was 18% less in invited group and there was no difference in colorectal cancer deaths between the groups
- Less than half (42%) of those invited to have a colonoscopy had one
- The study covers a European population which is less diverse than the American population
- Diets in European countries are different as compared to American diets
- In those who had a colonoscopy within the study:
- The risk of developing colorectal cancer decreased by 18%
- The risk of dying from colorectal cancer decreased by 50%
Furthermore, the quality of colonoscopy an individual receives is essential to polyp detection and removal. Adenoma detection rate is the percentage of patients undergoing a colonoscopy who have one or more precancerous polyps detected. This is the measure which reflects how carefully a colonoscopy is performed. Reported adenoma detection rates by some participating endoscopists within the study were below national benchmarks dictated by ACG and ASGE (30% in males and 20% in females). The physicians of Austin Gastroenterology consistently report higher adenoma detection rates than national averages with most recent ADRs at 54% and 42% in men and women, respectively.
What are the current national screening guidelines?
The American College of Gastroenterology recommends colorectal screenings in average risk individuals starting at 45 years of age, repeating at maximum every 10 years, up until the age of 75. After the age of 75, it is best to talk to your physician about how to proceed with screenings.
Colorectal cancer screening may be recommended sooner for the following populations:
- Individuals with inflammatory bowel disease (including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease)
- Members of certain ethnicities (African Americans have a higher chance of getting colon cancer than individuals of other ethnicities)
- Individuals with a history of bowel cancer or polyps in their immediate family
- Individuals with a diet that is low in fiber but high in fat and calories
It is important to talk with a specialist in digestive health to understand your risk of colon cancer and receive recommendations on when to plan a colonoscopy screening.
What are the warning signs of colorectal cancer?
There are varying degrees of signs and symptoms that individuals diagnosed with colorectal cancer report including:
- A frequent change in bowel movements
- Rectal bleeding or bloody stool
- Frequent abdominal discomforts, such as cramps, gas or pain
- A feeling that your bowel cannot empty fully
- Weakness or fatigue
- Unexplained weight loss
Some individuals report feeling no symptoms at all which makes following the national screening guidelines crucial.
If you’re still unsure on what next steps are right for you, talk to your primary care provider, make a plan, and take charge of your colorectal health! Remember, colorectal cancer is preventable, treatable, and beatable.