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Study Supports Value of Sigmoidoscopy, an Alternative to Colonoscopy
Date:5/21/2012

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, May 21 (HealthDay News) -- New research confirms that sigmoidoscopies -- less-invasive alternatives to colonoscopies that don't require sedation -- are effective in lowering the risk of colon cancer.

Having the procedure lowered the risk of getting a colon cancer diagnosis by 21 percent and the chances of dying from the disease by 26 percent, the researchers reported.

Many doctors no longer offer sigmoidoscopies, but an editorial accompanying the study pointed out that sigmoidoscopies are still a good option for some patients.

"Physicians need to find out which colorectal cancer screening test the patient sitting in front of them will do, and recommend that test," said editorial author Dr. John Inadomi, a professor of medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. "It's the test the patient wants to do -- not the test the doctor wants them to do -- that is important."

Colon and rectal cancers kill more than 51,000 people a year in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute. Colonoscopies allow doctors to view the lining of the entire colon as they engage in search-and-destroy missions against polyps that could develop into cancer.

Sigmoidoscopies use a smaller scope that searches only the lower colon, potentially missing some precancerous polyps. Patients can return to home or work right after the procedure because they are not sedated.

Both kinds of screening require a notoriously unpleasant cleansing of the colon via a liquid laxative. However, sigmoidoscopies require less laxative consumption than colonoscopies, Inadomi said.

But there is a hitch to sigmoidoscopies: If the procedure turns up potentially dangerous polyps, they need to be removed during a subsequent colonoscopy.

In the new study, researchers randomly assigned half of 154,900 people aged 55 to 74 to sigmoidoscopies -- 84 perce
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