Decline in Bowel Cancer Deaths Due to Colonoscopy

Apr 22, 2015

Within the last 20 years, bowel cancer death rates have fallen significantly.  One of the most likely reasons for the drop is that growths are being spotted by screening methods such as colonoscopy, and removed before they can become cancerous.

Common Cancer

Bowel cancer, sometimes called colorectal cancer is one of the most common non-skin cancers in both men and women.  In the UK, it accounts for 13% of all new cases, with almost 50,000 people diagnosed each year according to Cancer Resesrach UK statistics.  The cancer is often difficult to detect because most people don’t experience symptoms while the disease is in its early stages.  They typically appear when the cancer has advanced, which is why early screening is so important.

Effective Screening

Doctors can make use of a number of tests and screening methods to diagnose or rule out bowel cancer. They include blood tests, stools tests and CT scans. 

A colonoscopy is widely considered to be the best test and is where flexible tube with a light and camera at its tip is inserted into the rectum.  This allows a doctor to see the large intestine and part of the small intestine to check for any cancerous or precancerous growths.  One of the advantages of colonoscopies is that they can uncover growths before they have a chance to become cancerous. 

Colonoscopies Are a Life Saver 

A number of studies have been published in recent years that demonstrate how colonoscopy is saving lives.

American Cancer Society researchers found that between 2000 and 2010, bowel cancer rates among American adults dropped by a third.  During this same period of time there was a sharp increase in bowel cancer testing. 

Among the findings, which were published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, were:

  • The largest decrease was witnessed in people over the age of 65
  • The decline mirrored almost a tripling in the uptake of colonoscopy, from 19% in 2000 to 55% in 2010 among adults aged between 50 and 75

Research from the Harvard School of Public Health, published in 2014 found that 40% of all bowel cancers could be prevented if people underwent regular colonoscopy.  The researchers looked at data from two studies covering nearly 90,000 people who underwent colonoscopies or sigmoidoscopies (similar to a colonoscopy, but it covers a smaller area).  Out of the two procedures, colonoscopy was linked with lower cancer deaths.

It’s not all Good News

Although the bowel cancer rates are falling, and there is much to be optimistic about, the picture is not entirely a rosy one.   Despite the progress, there will still be many deaths from bowel cancer.

A study published in the journal JAMA Surgery predicted that by 2020 and 2030 bowel cancer rates will increase by 38% and 98% respectively due to a rise in cases among the 22 to 49 age group. Although the exact reasons for the increase are not clear, scientists reckon that potential causes could be dietary, lifestyle and genetic.

However, there is one thing that most experts are agreed upon and that is that early screening can slash those figures and improve the outcome for millions of people.

If you are looking for a colonoscopy consultant in London , please note that at the London Gastroenterology Centre, we have consultants who are specialists in Colonoscopy. Please see the colonoscopy section of our website or contact us on 020 7183 7965 to make an appointment or for more information.

We are available to see patients daily for private consultations

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