Despite screening skepticism, evidence mounts in favor of colonoscopy

For a cancer-screening test, you can't beat a colonoscopy for the sheer discomfort of the procedure. From the foul bowel preparation solution that every patient has to consume before the procedure, to the fact that, in order to undergo the exam, anesthesia is pretty much necessary for all but the motivated patient, it's an exam that no one looks forward to.

But there's also one other thing about colonoscopy as a cancer-screening test that can't be beat--research continues to show its benefits without the controversy associated with some other high profile cancer-screening tests.

A recent study, reported in this issue of FierceMedicalImaging, by Chyke Doubeni, M.D., of the University of Pennsylvania, has added even more evidence of the value of colonoscopy, finding that it works as a diagnostic tool, both for right-sided and left-sided colon cancer, for those with an average risk of developing cancer.

Of course, questions still remain about colonoscopy's effectiveness when one considers that the success of the test relies on the patient successfully cleansing the colon, and on the physician's ability to find adenomas and complete the examination without damaging the colon wall. But even here, there's evidence of improvement.

For example, another study about which we recently reported found that that the complication rate associated with colonoscopy is low enough to be justifiable, considering the benefits of screening. And another study we reported on last fall found that a split dose bowel preparation improves polyp detection. 

Considering the amount of skepticism that has arisen about the net benefits associated with traditional screening tests like mammography for breast cancer and PSAs for prostate cancer, added evidence about the success of colonoscopy is to be welcomed. After all, it seems to work. - Mike  @FierceHealthIT


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