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Press Release

Colonoscopy Remains the Most Effective Screening Option for Colon Cancer

Only screening method that allows for detection of polyps and their removal during the same exam, BEFORE they progress into cancer

Oak Brook, Ill. – October 2, 2007 – According to the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE), colonoscopy remains the most effective screening option for colorectal cancer. Colonoscopy is widely accepted as the best method for colon cancer screening because it allows the trained physician to thoroughly evaluate the entire colon. Colonoscopy has a high detection rate for polyps, including small lesions, and the ability to remove them immediately during the procedure, rather than scheduling a second exam. Biopsies can also be taken of any abnormal areas at the same time as the screening or diagnostic test.

"Although there have been recent studies showing improvements in other colon cancer screening modalities, colonoscopy is the most effective because it is both diagnostic and therapeutic. Not only does it allow us to see the entire colon and identify polyps of all sizes, but it also allows us to remove polyps during the same exam, before they turn into cancer," said Mark Pochapin, MD, spokesperson for the ASGE. "Many colorectal cancer deaths can be prevented through proper detection. If you are over 50 or have a family history of colorectal cancer, talk to your doctor about getting screened today.”

Earlier this year, the American Cancer Society announced drops in cancer deaths, which were attributed to earlier detection and improved treatment. The biggest decrease occurred in colorectal cancer deaths. A 2006 study by Yale researchers found that, as Medicare coverage for colorectal cancer screening expanded, so did colonoscopies and with that, early cancer detection rates. The key variable in survival statistics among cancers, including colorectal, is early detection and prevention. These findings support ASGE's position that colonoscopy is the most effective screening and prevention method.

Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in men and women and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States, killing nearly 56,000 people each year. Many of those deaths could be prevented with earlier detection. The five-year relative survival rate for people whose colorectal cancer is treated in an early stage is greater than 90 percent. Unfortunately, only 39 percent of colorectal cancers are found at that early stage. Once the cancer has spread to nearby organs or lymph nodes, the five-year relative survival rate decreases dramatically.

ASGE screening guidelines recommend that, beginning at age 50, asymptomatic men and women at average risk for developing colorectal cancer should have a colonoscopy every 10 years. People with risk factors, such as a family history of colon cancer, should begin earlier. Patients are advised to discuss their risk factors with their physician to determine when to begin routine colorectal cancer screening and how often they should be screened.

Colorectal cancer can be present in people without symptoms, known family history, or predisposing conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease.

The following symptoms, however, might indicate colorectal cancer:

  • Change in bowel habits
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Narrower than normal stools
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Constant tiredness
  • Blood in the stool
  • Feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
  • Abdominal discomfort-gas, bloating, fullness, cramps
  • Unexplained anemia

To ensure the best possible patient outcomes, ASGE has taken a leadership role in developing quality measures for endoscopic procedures such as colonoscopy. Establishing quality indicators, such as appropriate withdrawal time and detection rates, is a major step toward providing patients the highest quality endoscopic care. Read ASGE's "Quality Indicators for Colonoscopy," a section in the "Quality Indicators for Gastrointestinal Endoscopic Procedures" supplement published in the April 2006 issue of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.

For more information about colorectal cancer screening or to find a qualified physician, visit ASGE's colorectal cancer awareness Web site at http://www.screen4coloncancer.org.

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About the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy
Founded in 1941, the mission of the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy is to be the leader in advancing patient care and digestive health by promoting excellence in gastrointestinal endoscopy. ASGE, with more than 10,000 physician members worldwide, promotes the highest standards for endoscopic training and practice, fosters endoscopic research, recognizes distinguished contributions to endoscopy, and is the foremost resource for endoscopic education.

About Endoscopy
Endoscopy is performed by specially-trained physicians called endoscopists using the most current technology to diagnose and treat diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. Using flexible, thin tubes called endoscopes, endoscopists are able to access the human digestive tract without incisions via natural orifices. Endoscopes are designed with high-intensity lighting and fitted with precision devices that allow viewing and treatment of the gastrointestinal system. In many cases, screening or treatment of conditions can be delivered via the endoscope without the need for further sedation, treatment or hospital stay.