If you’re like most of my colleagues in the newsroom, you read that headline and thought, “GREAT! What is the alternative test?!”
Here’s the quick background: Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer killer in the U.S. A colonoscopy is an excellent screening tool. But more than one-third of people who are supposed to get it (that’s people ages 50-75) don’t.
Why? I think you can guess.
A colonoscopy is an invasive screening test that can involve missing one to two days of work, an inconvenient preparation process and then a “colonoscope is gently eased inside the colon and sends pictures to a TV screen,” the American Cancer Society says. Continue reading
(Photo: Getty Images)
We’ve known for years that the lowly over-the-counter aspirin not only relieves headaches, but it can also reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. Now researchers have demonstrated aspirin can do even more: it may prevent cancer, specifically colon cancer in women.
There has been mounting evidence that links aspirin use to lower rates of cancer, particularly gastrointestinal cancers like colon cancer. Yet, few studies have set out to directly ask whether aspirin actually reduces cases of cancer.
Over the 18 year study, women who took aspirin reduced their risk of colon cancer by about 20 percent.
Results from the Women’s Health Study
(WHS) released Monday is the first to examine how every-other-day use of low-dose aspirin specifically affects cancer in women, said Nancy Cook an author on the paper.
The researchers chose to use a low-dose of aspirin to minimize the drug’s side effects.
Until now, there has been little information about what dose of aspirin might be needed to prevent cancer. Continue reading
By: Kamal Menghrajani
Patient-doctor discussions about choices in colon cancer screening may encourage more people to follow through. (Vic Lawrence: Flickr)
Although about 50,000 people in the U.S. died from colorectal cancer (CRC) last year, as many as half of those deaths could have been prevented by routine screening. That’s 25,000 lives that could have been saved using tools that are already widely available.
The problem is getting people to undergo screening can be a bit of a challenge. The “ick” factor of colonoscopies, concerns about paying for them, and other barriers get in the way of adequate screenings. Alternatives do exist, such as the fecal occult blood test (FOBT) – a non-invasive test people can do at home and send into the lab. As reported here in the past, new tools are also being developed that use more advanced science to check for markers of cancer, though these are still gaining traction.
But now doctors are looking at the psychology of how they talk to patients to figure out what might get the most people to get on board with screening.
In a study published today in the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers from three medical schools, including UCSF, focused on just colonoscopies and FOBT. The study was done in San Francisco through the Community Health Network, and randomized doctors into three study groups: one to recommend only FOBT, one to recommend only colonoscopy, and one to offer patients a choice between the two.
Researchers presumed that recommending just one or the other would send a clear signal and be more effective than giving patients a choice.
They were wrong.
If the sight of a colonoscope like this one makes you shudder, there are other options for colorectal cancer screening.
Colorectal cancer is one of the five most common cancers in both men and women, and it kills more than 43,000 Americans each year. As we learned today, colonoscopy is a successful screening method–it cuts the death rate of colorectal cancer in half.
Still, getting a colonoscopy has a problem: the yuck factor. That’s why a study in today’s New England Journal of Medicine caught my eye. Researchers in Spain looked at colonoscopy versus “FIT,” a non-invasive test to screen for colorectal cancer. FIT–fecal immunochemical testing–looks for the presence of blood in the stool, a marker for benign polyps or cancer. Patients have either one colonoscopy during the ten years of the study or FIT every other year. (Note that the American Cancer Society has a great explainer of the different screening methods available and pros and cons of each).
“In order to get a large proportion of a population screened, you have to offer an alternative to colonoscopy.”
In today’s study researchers say colonoscopy and FIT detected roughly the same number of cancers. The report comes at the two year point of what will be a ten year study. We have to wait the full ten years to see how death rates from colorectal cancer compare between the two types of screening. Continue reading