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Colonoscopies can save lives
[Posted: Sun 26/02/2012 www.irishhealth.com]
By Gillian Tsoi
Colonoscopies can reduce the risk of dying from colon cancer by half, according to scientists in the US.
Colonoscopies - during which precancerous polyps or adenomas can be removed - can cut the risk of dying from colon cancer by 53%.
This is according to researchers at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
They studied 2,602 people, who were sent for a colonoscopy between 1980 and 1990, and compared the death rate in their study to the estimated death rate from a national cancer-tracking programme called Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER).
Over a 23-year period, the death rate from colorectal cancer among those who originally had adenomas removed was 53% lower than would be expected based on the rates seen in the government study.
A total of 12 people died from cancer in the removal group - more than half of the 25 that would normally been expected to die of colorectal disease.
Eight-one per cent of the patients who had polyps removed continued to have periodic colonoscopies to check for growths.
The scientists hope that this information will encourage more people to undergo the tests to detect and prevent colon cancer.
Only about half of people referred on for colonoscopies get them. This is partly due to the fact that the procedure is embarrassing, uncomfortable and can, in rare cases, cause injury, according to the researchers.
Ann Zauber, chief author of the study, said: "This study is showing both a reduction in colon cancer incidence and colon cancer deaths by removing the adenomas, and it's a long-term effect. This is reassuring for people to come in for screening."
Colon cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide.
In standard colonoscopies, a tiny camera is threaded up through the rectum. The device has a little pair of clippers on the end to remove suspicious-looking growths if necessary.
There are then tested to determine if they are potentially cancerous.
The research appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine.
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