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
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.