Bowel Cancer Prevention

Bowel Cancer Prevention

The importance of bowel cancer cannot be underestimated. It is the second most common cause of cancer in the UK, with 1 in 20 people developing colon cancer if not screened in middle-age. This amounts to about 16,000 deaths a year, and when one considers 3,500 people die in traffic accidents each year, the disease is a major cause for concern. In an attempt to diagnose the disease at an early stage, GP's are often encouraged to refer patients to a hospital specialist such as a Gastroenterologist via a fast-track referral pathway. Evidence suggests that bowel cancer screening programmes (BCSP), can improve the rate of cancer diagnosis, the stage of cancer in an individual diagnosed via a screening procedure and ultimately influence the prevalence of the disease within the population. In response to this, the UK started a BCSP in 2007. Individuals between the age of 60 -75 years are offered screening by a stool test every 2 years. However, it is important not to take part in this programme if you have symptoms. In this situation, individuals should go and see there GP.

Colorectal cancer can be diagnosed and potentially prevented via colonoscopy. Colonoscopy is a tried and tested method to detect and remove polyps. It is a mostly painless procedure with highly effective results. Colonoscopy is the definitive way of finding and removing pre-cancerous polyps anywhere in the colon, but it's a challenging technique to master. Data from the BCSP, suggests that colonoscopy is very safe procedure when performed by experts. In the screened population, approximately 40 % of those undergoing colonoscopy  are found to have non-cancerous "benign" polyps, which can be removed, significantly reducing the risk of colorectal cancer in that individual in the future. The results of the first million tests to be sent out in the UK have just been published by Logan et al in Gut 2012;61:1439-1446, and are presented in abstract form in the NEWS section of this website.

 

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