[Perspectives] The Benefits Of Colonoscopy In Reducing The Risk Of Colorectal Cancer And Improving Survival Rates

[Perspectives] The Benefits Of Colonoscopy In Reducing The Risk Of Colorectal Cancer And Improving Survival Rates

Benefits of colonoscopy overstated or substantial

Colonoscopy is a medical procedure recommended for detecting and preventing colorectal cancer. It involves the examination of the colon and rectum using a flexible tube with a camera attached to it. The tube also has a channel whereby a biopsy forceps can be inserted for extraction of tissue for further examination. A CNN article cites a recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in Oct 2022 that cast doubt on the benefits of colonoscopy in reducing the risk of developing colorectal cancer and improving survival rates. However, as voiced by a number of doctors featured in the CNN article, the findings of the study has limitations, and in their view, colonoscopy remains an essential tool in the fight against colorectal cancer.

What Was The Study On The Benefits Of Colonoscopy?

The study mentioned in the CNN article was carried out by the Northern-European Initiative on Colon Cancer (“NordICC”). It involved more than 84,000 men and women aged 55 to 64 from Poland, Norway and Sweden. The participants, all of whom had not had a colonoscopy before, were randomly either invited to have a screening colonoscopy, or they were studied as those who were not invited for screening and did not receive any screening.

What Were The Findings Of The Study?

Conventional wisdom is that the benefits of colonoscopies makes it an effective tool in fighting colorectal cancer. The benefits include helping to detect precancerous growths, such as polyps, and allow for their removal before they turn cancerous. Furthermore, colonoscopy aids in the early detection of colorectal cancer, enabling timely treatment and improving survival rates.

The NordICC study however, seems on the surface to suggest that the benefits of colonoscopies were overstated. It found that by 10 years after enrolment, the group that had been invited to get colonoscopies had an 18% lower risk of developing colorectal cancers compared to the group that was not screened. However, there was no statistically significant reduction in their risk of death from colorectal cancer.

What Were The Limitations Of The Study?

Like any scientific study, the research featured in the CNN article had its limitations. It is essential to consider these limitations to gain an understanding of the findings in the proper context.

A key limitation of the study pointed out in the CNN article by Dr. William Dahut (chief scientific officer, American Cancer Society) was that the study was conducted in countries whereby the practice of going for colonoscopies is not common. As such, only 42% of the people in the “invited” group undertook the procedure. This low uptake rate caused the overall results to be less favourable. However, looking only at the results for the people who actually undergo colonoscopies, it woas found that the risk of colorectal cancer was reduced by 31%. In addition, the risk of death due to colorectal cancer was reduced by a significant 50%.

Our Key Takeaway – The Benefits Of Colonoscopy Are Substantial For Those Who Undergo The Procedure

A closer look at the results of the NordICC study may suggest that benefits of simply inviting people to undergo colonoscopies might be limited at an aggregate level, particularly if there is no strong societal culture of undertaking the procedure. The study results specific to people who went for colonoscopies however, suggests that the benefits are substantial and potentially life-saving.

Going For A Colonoscopy In Singapore, Malaysia Or Thailand

In Singapore, it is recommended that people aged 50 and above undergo colonoscopy once every 10 years, if they are of average risk for the cancer. Those with higher risk profiles should consult their doctors on the need for more frequent screening. Health365 has partnered with healthcare providers in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand for colonoscopy screening packages. You are considering colonoscopy, you can explore the options on our ecommerce portal.

Protect against cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic diseases with regular health screening. Compare and shop for health screenings from Singapore and regional healthcare providers at a single convenient platform - shop.health365.sg

This article is informative only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.