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Family Docs Do Colonoscopies Safely
Date:1/15/2009

Study found no more complications than when specialists perform screening test

THURSDAY, Jan. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Colonoscopies performed by family doctors who are trained to conduct the procedure are safe, effective and meet standard quality guidelines for colon cancer screenings, new research reveals.

The finding is based on an analysis of 12 earlier studies conducted between 1966 and 2007, all of which focused specifically on the outcomes of colonoscopies performed by primary-care physicians -- as opposed to gastrointestinal specialists.

Noting that the nation's approximately 12,000 board-certified gastroenterologists are not sufficient in number to meet the ideal screening needs of the country's third most common cancer, the authors said that the findings should encourage a "fundamental role" for properly trained primary-care physicians -- particularly in rural areas -- as part of an effort to broaden access to colonoscopies.

"But I want to emphasize that this doesn't apply to all primary-care physicians in general," cautioned study author Dr. Thad Wilkins, from the department of family medicine at the Medical College of Georgia, in Augusta. "Our study is only evaluating the outcomes of colonoscopies performed by those doctors who are trained and competent in performing a colonoscopy, and that amounts to about 5 percent of all primary-care physicians. But among those that are trained, the results are comparable to those of specialists."

Wilkins and his colleagues reported their observations in the January/February edition of the Annals of Family Medicine.

Dr. Durado Brooks, director of colorectal cancer for the American Cancer Society, expressed little surprise with the findings, but advised patients to screen their physicians carefully.

"Most people who finish medical school would be widely capable of doing any number of procedures in a high-quality fashion if they have
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