Colonoscopy Still Popular with Doctors and Unpopular with Patients

Colonoscopy is one diagnostic procedure that most people do not want to undergo.  Their hesitation originates not only in the notion that the colonoscopy procedure is invasive but also because they think that preparing for an appointment with bowel prep is extremely uncomfortable. Study figures revealed that as many as 1 out of every 3 Americans between 50 and 75 years of age has not undergone the recommended colorectal cancer screening. Colon cancer kills more than 50,000 people every, single year. Despite these well-known cancer statistics, another study showed that, whether they were insured or not, people were not very much interested in undergoing colonoscopy. Recent developments in alternative methods, however, are making colon cancer prevention much less daunting.

Anybody who reaches the age 50 and has a known family history of colorectal cancer is strongly advised to undergo a colonoscopy screening. This standard has been advocated by the United States government as well as respected medical research societies. Colorectal cancer is the number two leading cause of cancer deaths in the country. But with regular screening, a doctor can actually prevent cancer before it develops. This cannot be said about most other cancer screening tests.

The colonoscopy procedure lets doctors see the inside of the bowels and check for the presence of precancerous polyps or tumors. Once found, tissue samples can be taken during a procedure called biopsy, and those samples can be examined and tested for cancer cells. In addition, any abnormality detected during a colonoscopy which increases your risk of developing colon disease can easily be taken out if findings are positive. The New England Journal of Medicine has reported that the polyp removal during routine colonoscopies has significantly cut down national incidences of colorectal cancer diagnoses.

Even less invasive endoscopy procures pale in comparison to the standard colonoscopy test. Director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Preventive Program at Stanford University School of Medicine Dr. Uri Ladabaum has stated that, to date, colonoscopy is still preferred over sigmoidoscopy. Sigmoidoscopy is a kind of mini-colonoscopy which limits the exam to only the lower one-third of the large intestine. Most professionals said that sigmoidoscopy is insufficient for colon cancer screening and preferred standard colonoscopy.

According to the most researchers, colonoscopy is the “gold standard” of screening and has vastly overshadowed other, less invasive but ultimately less thorough screening methods. But in recent news, this comparison has been contested by some physicians.

Dr. James Allison, Professor Emeritus of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco and an Adjunct Investigator at the Kaiser Division of Research, said that she believes that people would be more receptive to undergoing colorectal cancer screening if there were a better set of alternative methods. He cited a new method of regular stool sampling called Fecal Immunochemical Test, or FIT, as one option. Regardless, FIT has to pass many more clinical trials before it can match colonoscopy. More fecal testing programs are being developed, and initial research shows that in the future they can very well be an alternative to the more invasive method. The most important benefit of this research, however, is that having more options would definitely encourage unscreened patients to check for colon cancer at all.

If you'd like to get screened for colon cancer this month, please find a doctor in your area who can perform standard colonoscopy or an alternative procedure.