A new European study in the New England Journal of Medicine got a lot of attention for suggesting that colonoscopy might not be beneficial as a screening tool for colorectal cancer. Physicians here in the U.S., including those with the American Cancer Society and the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, argue that study had flaws. A colonoscopy is a procedure that involves putting a scope into the colon to look for potentially cancerous growths and cutting them out. The European study showed only an 18 percent reduction in colorectal cancer among thousands invited to get the test. But barely 4 in 10 people invited to get tested actually did. When you look at the results for those who actually got the colonoscopy, the risk of developing colon cancer decreased by about 30 percent, and deaths decreased by about 50 percent. There are other screening methods for colorectal cancer, including those looking for blood or a combination of blood and DNA changes, but colonoscopy is still the gold standard screening test. It’s important to talk to your doctor about how and when to get screened.
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