According to the publication from The New England Journal of Medicine, the study examines two groups of people: one group, undergoing colonoscopy screening, and another group that does not.
“The participants were randomly assigned in a 1:2 ratio to either receive an invitation to undergo a single screening colonoscopy (the invited group) or to receive no invitation or screening (the usual-care group) … (The New England Journal of Medicine).”
The study examines healthy men and women in the 55-64 age range, of European descent. The trial is between 2009 and 2014.
Findings said those who underwent screening were less at risk for colorectal cancer. But, the findings also said there’s no significant difference in mortality rate between the two groups when it comes to colon cancer.
Right off the bat, the study says in the abstract: “Although colonoscopy is widely used to detect cancer, its effects on risks of colorectal cancer and related death is unclear.”
Danielle Marino, Associate Professor of Medicine for Gastroenterology and Hepatology with URMC says the headlines and messaging that followed these results have been misleading.
“A lot of the media reports after that, came out saying, ‘colonoscopy doesn’t work to decrease death from colon cancer.’ And we just think that that’s a little bit of misinformation,” said Marino.
Marino said colonoscopies remain the best way to detect colon cancer and prevent death from it. “Colon cancer is largely preventable,” she said. “And that’s why screening is really important.”
Marino said there were some ‘limitations’ in the study, as well.
For example, the way colonoscopies were performed in this European study is actually considered ‘inadequate’ by medical standards in the U.S.
She said here in the U.S, we measure the percentage of polyps doctors can find by performing colonoscopies.
In this study, about 30% percent of the doctors had a lower ‘polyp detection rate’ than what the minimum standards are in the U.S.
Marino said if you’re 45 or older, it’s highly recommended that you start getting screened. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, you should talk to your doctor about getting screening earlier; possibly at age 45.
She said the screening can save your life and is important to undergo regardless of how good your diet, health, and family history is.
“Once symptoms of colon cancer develop, things such as persistent abdominal pain, unintentional weight loss or bleeding, it’s too late; the colon cancer is already there,” she said.
But the way colon cancer works is actually to our advantage, she said. And that’s where colonoscopies come into play.
“It takes a long time to start from a normal colon to a polyp, which is a precancerous growth, to colon cancer. And that really gives us an opportunity to screen, and look for people before they develop colon cancer,” said Marino.