Bowel cancer screening can save your life

In a new study, researchers have demonstrated bowel cancer screening can help to reduce the number of bowel cancer deaths by up to 45%.

The research was led by the University of South Australia.

Bowel (or colorectal) cancer kills almost 6000 people in Australia each year and 700,000 worldwide.

Bur this number would be much higher without pre-diagnostic colonoscopies.

The team analyzed data from 12,906 bowel cancer patients indicate that faecal occult blood testing (FOBT) with a follow-up colonoscopy plays a key role in catching the disease early before symptoms appear.

The researchers found that having one pre-diagnostic colonoscopy was linked to a 17% reduction in cancer deaths; a 27% reduction with two pre-diagnostic colonoscopy procedures and 45% for three or more.

Of the 12,906 records analyses, 37% of the patients had pre-diagnostic colonoscopies and were more likely to live longer than those who were diagnosed after experiencing cancer symptoms.

one of the study leaders, says that in South Australia, where the study was undertaken, those patients who had pre-diagnostic colonoscopies showed a “significant increase” in survival.

The risk of colorectal cancer death reduces step-wise with increasing numbers of colonoscopy examinations before symptoms appear, cutting the mortality rate from 17% to 45%.

The findings show the value of the National Bowel Screening Program which is now being rolled out to everyone in Australia over the age of 50 on a two-yearly basis.

It involves doing a simple, non-invasive faecal occult blood test (FOBT) which, if positive, is followed up with a colonoscopy.

Bowel cancer causes the second-highest number of cancer deaths in Australia after lung cancer and is the third most common cancer worldwide, but 90% can be cured if detected early.

The lead author of the study is Dr. Ming Li.

The study is published in BMC Cancer.

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