It is estimated that 16,000 people die from bowel cancer each year in England alone, yet a new study from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, USA has found that having a colonoscopy reduced deaths from the cancer by 53%.
Following a colonoscopy, those patients with tumour-like adenomatous polyps had these polyps removed, preventing them from growing into cancerous tumours. The study looked at over 2500 patients who had precancerous polyps removed and after 16 years found that only twelve had died from colorectal cancer. Comparisons with a similar-sized group of the general population who had not undergone bowel cancer screening found that the death rate from bowel cancer was 25.
A colonoscopy involves a gastroenterologist inserting a video camera into the rectum and then into the colon. The gastroenterologist will look for the adenomatous polyps using the camera and will then remove these safely. Patients will not suffer from pain during the procedure but many patients avoid it due to the rigid diet enforced prior to screening in order to clear out the bowel.
In the UK on the NHS, men and women aged 60–75 will be invited for screening, initially through a home testing kit known as an FOBt kit; those with abnormal results or those with rectal bleeding or a family history of bowel cancer will then be invited for a colonoscopy. For further information about bowel cancer screening in the UK, please click here.
Beating Bowel Cancer UK provides help and advice for anyone concerned about colorectal cancer.