Colonoscopy and its usefulness as a cancer prevention tool - Part 1

Colon cancer in most cases develops in a predictable fashion. Cells on the surface of the bowel may form lumps called polyps which in some people will evolve into cancer over many years. Colonoscopy is considered by many as the gold standard test in detecting colon cancer and potentially preventing cancer by removal of precancerous polyps.

Precancerous polyps are very common after the age of 50 years. In my experience, they are found in more than 40% of men and women that have a colonoscopy for screening purposes. Hence by having regular colonoscopies one can potentially detect these polyps and remove them before they can cause cancer. So should everyone get a colonoscopy at the age of 50 years?

The answer to that question is complex. Part 2 of my blog will discuss the case for colon cancer prevention with colonoscopy and Part 3 the case against. Stay tuned... Read More...

Colorectal cancer

Colon cancer is the second most common cancer in men and women. Unlike many other cancers, colorectal cancer is completely preventable and if diagnosed early, curable.

Current NHMRC recommendations for colon cancer screening in Australia advocate for screening over the age of 50 years and continuing till the age of 74 years provided there are no other risk factors for colorectal cancer and no symptoms. The preferred test in Australia is testing stool for occult blood (FOBT) every two years and if positive it is recommended to proceed with a colonoscopy. The stool test is a highly accurate test for detecting cancer but less accurate for detecting precancerous polyps.

Stool testing is not an appropriate test in patients with colorectal symptoms. If you have rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, weight loss, anaemia, a change in bowel habit or any other concerning symptoms, speak to your doctor.