Colon cancer risk and rates of death related to the illness could be cut by regular screening when offered a sigmoidoscopy, research has revealed.
The findings come following a large and lengthy study of nearly 155,000 men and women between the ages of 55 to 74. The government-sponsored research covered a span of 12 years, during which patients underwent either colonoscopies or sigmoidoscopies during routine testing and colon cancer screenings.
Half of the participants experienced a sigmoidoscopy at the start of the study, and again at the three to five year mark. The other half received standard colon cancer screenings, such as a colonoscopy, during the same time period. Ultimately, as Reuters explains, patients “randomly assigned to get screened using so-called flexible sigmoidoscopy on two different occasions were 21 percent less likely to get colon cancer than those not offered the screening.”
Dr. Alfred Neugut is an epidemiologist and oncologist at Columbia University in New York City. Although Neugut did not participate in the research, he told Reuters that colonoscopies are a “very unpleasant thing,” and explained:
“Sigmoidoscopy is a much less elaborate procedure, so you can basically walk into the doctor’s office and get it on the spot… and it’s much less invasive.”
The University of Pittsburgh’s Dr. Robert Schoen explained why sigmoidoscopies are a more desirable colon cancer screening method for many when contrasted with colonoscopies:
“If someone, for example, was afraid of anesthesia, if they want a test where the prep is not so aggressive — they just take enemas as opposed to drinking laxatives, if they cannot spare a day… all those are good reasons if you want to go and have a (sigmoidoscopy).”
Neugut explains that those who are disinclined to get a colonoscopy should be told that sigmoidoscopy is a “valid form of screening for colon cancer.”