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Medical check-ups for intestinal cancer are hardly used

Only 20% of persons aged over 55 use colonoscopies for early detection of cancer, even though the statutory health insurance funds have covered the costs since 2002. This was shown by an analysis of the Bavarian Colonoscopy Database published in the current edition of Deutsches rzteblatt International (Dtsch Arztebl Int 2008; 105(24): 434-40).

The authors evaluated 245 263 colonoscopies performed by the Bavarian Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians in 2006. The analysis showed that colonoscopy is an established, reliable and safe procedure for the early detection of colorectal cancer. This method detects an intestinal lesion in every fourth patient. As many as 1% of these lesions are due to a carcinoma. Advanced adenomas are often precursors of carcinoma and were found in one of twelve investigations.

In spite of the high rate of detection of intestinal cancer and the low risk for the patient, far too few patients exploited the chance of a check-up. Colonoscopies for the early detection of cancer are only performed annually on 2% of persons aged over 55. To this must be added 4% who have a colonoscopy performed as part of a follow-up or for the diagnosis of symptoms. If this is extrapolated to a period of 10 years the intended interval between two check-ups we are left with 40% of people aged over 55 who do not have a check-up. In particular, women exploit this opportunity more and more rarely with advancing age.

Colonoscopy itself is safe. There are complications in many fewer than 1% of colonoscopies.


Contact: Elke Bartholomus
Deutsches Aerzteblatt International

Page: 1

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