According to a recent publication by The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care, a colonoscopy does not need to be used to screen adults for colon cancer. They instead have a simpler and far less invasive suggestion: search for blood in the stool that may be indicative of colon cancer.
The goal of screening for colon cancer is to find any polyps. If and when they are found, they can be removed before they become cancerous. In Canada, they use a health screening method to detect signs of colon cancer polyps in stool called guaiac fecal occult blood testing (gFOBT) or fecal immunochemical testing (FIT).
This week, the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care, which consists of leading doctors and methodologists, updated their suggestions for the screening process in older adults 50 and up who are not showing any signs or symptoms of cancer and who have been deemed as low risk candidates.
In recent years, opponents of colonoscopies have presented evidence that shows that they are not superior to any other current screening method with equally as effective alternative methods available, according to Healthline. This new information is indicative that leading medical experts in Canada also agree.
The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care does recommend that adults between the ages of 60 and 75 be screened using the FIT or FOBT method at least one time every 24 months. They do not advise screening adults over the age of 75 due to the fact that mortality rates are relatively unaffected with treatment.
But, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says these screenings should take place between the ages of 50 and 75, a 10-year difference from the Canadian recommendation. They also recommend that either a FOBT, colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy method be used.
“Regardless of age, primary care providers should discuss the most appropriate choice of test with patients who are interested in screening, considering patient values and preferences as well as local test availability,” the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force suggests.
According to the American Cancer Society, each year in the U.S. there are “95,270 new cases of colon cancer” and “39,220 new cases of rectal cancer.” The “lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is: about 1 in 21 (4.7%) for men and 1 in 23 (4.4%) for women.”
Annually, nearly 50,000 Americans die as a result of this disease, which is highly treatable when caught in the early stages. According to Cancer.org, the five-year survival rate for those who are diagnose with stage I colon cancer is 92%.