ASGE Press Releases
For Immediate Release
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Media Contact: Jennifer L. Michalek
New Research Supports ASGE Position: Colonoscopy is the Most Effective Method for Colon Cancer Diagnosis and Early Detection
OAK BROOK, IL, December 20, 2006 - According to results of a study by Yale researchers, the percentage of patients diagnosed with the disease increased when Medicare was expanded to cover screening for colorectal cancer, and the use of colonoscopy appears to have played a pivotal role. Confirming the position long supported by the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE), the Yale study surmised that the Medicare reimbursement policy changes were linked to an increase in colonoscopy use among Medicare beneficiaries, and for those diagnosed with colon cancer, an increased probability of being diagnosed at an early stage.
The Medicare reimbursement policy was changed in 1998 to provide coverage for screening colonoscopies of patients with increased colon cancer risk. The policy was further expanded in 2001 to provide screenings for all Medicare beneficiaries.
The Yale study looked at three distinct periods of coverage under Medicare policy: period one, no screening coverage (1992-1997); period two, limited coverage (1998-2001); and period three, universal coverage (July 2001-December 2002). The Yale study found that the number of patients diagnosed with colon cancer at an early stage increased from 22.5% in period one (no coverage under Medicare), to 25.5% in period two (limited coverage under Medicare), and to 26.3% in period three (universal coverage under Medicare).
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.
Colonoscopy is widely accepted as the most effective method for colon cancer screening because it allows the trained physician to thoroughly evaluate the entire colon. In addition, it is the only screening method that enables the physician to remove benign adenomatous polyps before they progress to become cancerous. ASGE screening guidelines recommend that, beginning at age 50, both men and women at average risk for developing colorectal cancer should have a colonoscopy every 10 years. People with higher 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.
"Colonoscopy plays a crucial role in the fight to prevent colon cancer and for the successful diagnosis and treatment of a wide variety of digestive health conditions. ASGE applauds the research conducted by the Yale team and encourages individuals to seek screening via colonoscopy," said Gary W. Falk, MD, MS, FASGE, ASGE president and Professor of Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University.
Symptoms of colorectal cancer
The following symptoms 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
Colorectal cancer can be present in people without symptoms, known family history, or predisposing conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease. Regular screening will help identify precancerous polyps and colorectal cancers earlier.
For more information about colorectal cancer screening or to find a qualified physician, visit ASGE's colorectal cancer awareness Web site at www.screen4coloncancer.org.
About the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy
The American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE), founded in 1941, is the preeminent professional organization dedicated to advancing and promoting excellence in gastrointestinal endoscopy. Physicians and surgeons who are members of the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE) have highly specialized training in endoscopic procedures of the digestive tract. ASGE, with more than 9,500 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. Visit www.asge.org; www.askasge.org; and www.screen4coloncancer.org for more information.
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.