Simple Cancer Screening Could Save Thousands of Lives

Colon cancer screenings may lower cancer rates and save thousands of lives in the US

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Catching colon cancer in its early stages allows doctors to have a better chance of treating it successfully — making screening a potentially lifesaving procedure.

A recent study found that more colon cancer screenings could save more than 20,000 lives per year in the US.

Currently, about 58 percent of US adults aged 50 or older get their recommended colon cancer screenings, according to this study. Using a computer model, the authors of this study looked at how many lives would be saved if 80 percent of adults were screened.

They estimated that about 21,000 deaths would be averted per year, and colon cancer rates would drop by 17 percent. By 2030, about 203,000 lives would be saved.

"The barriers to increasing colorectal cancer screening in the United States are significant and numerous," said Richard C. Wender, MD, chair of the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable, in a press statement. "But this study shows that investing in efforts to clear these hurdles will result in a major cancer prevention success."

Sarah Y. Boostrom, MD, a board-certified colon and rectal surgery specialist with Baylor Regional Medical Center in Plano, TX, told dailyRx News that screening is vitally important.

"Colon cancer does not discriminate against gender or ethnicity — everyone should get a colonoscopy at the recommended age of 50," Dr. Boostrom said. "A family history may necessitate earlier screening but this will require consultation with a physician. It is important for patients to know their family history of all cancers, and to share this information with their doctor."

Ready to get screened but worried about the procedure? Dr. Boostrom said that the "most common fear amongst patients regarding a colonoscopy is the bowel prep. However, bowel preparations are much easier now with less volume, thus less complaints of nausea and vomiting."

This study was led by Reinier G. S. Meester, MS, of the Erasmus MC University Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the US. According to Meester and team, 50,300 Americans died of colon cancer in 2014.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends regular screenings starting at age 50. These screenings include testing for blood in the stool and using a camera to examine the rectum and colon (colonoscopy).

People with a higher risk of developing colon cancer, such as those with a family history of it, should be screened earlier and more often.

In this study, Meester and team used population and health data to estimate how many lives would be saved if 80 percent of US adults were screened regularly for colon cancer.

These researchers said that increasing screenings would allow for early detection of colon cancer and eventually lower cancer rates by 22 percent.

Also, in the long term, it could lower death rates from colon cancer by 33 percent.

In total, 277,000 cases of cancer would be avoided and 203,000 lives would be saved by 2030.

“Substantial coordinated effort is needed to achieve the goal of an 80% [colorectal cancer] screening rate by 2018 in the United States,” Meester and team wrote.

This study was published March 12 in Cancer.

The National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society funded this research. One of the authors, Dr. Chyke A. Doubeni, had financial ties to a company that makes colon cancer screening tests.

Review Date: 
March 11, 2015
Last Updated:
March 23, 2015