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Study confirms safety of colonoscopy
Date:3/1/2013

Colon cancer develops slowly. Precancerous lesions usually need many years to turn into a dangerous carcinoma. They are well detectable in an endoscopic examination of the colon called colonoscopy and can be removed during the same examination. Therefore, regular screening can prevent colon cancer much better than other types of cancer. Since 2002, colonoscopy is part of the national statutory cancer screening program in Germany for all insured persons aged 55 or older.

However, only one fifth of those eligible actually make use of the screening program. The reasons for this are manifold including fear of a frightening diagnosis and fear of a potentially unpleasant examination which can also lead to complications.

"For an examination offered to large portions of the population, the question of safety is of central importance. Therefore, it is equally important that physicians and public health experts are very well informed about the risks of complications," says Professor Hermann Brenner of DKFZ. "Only then can they profoundly evaluate chances and risks of a colonoscopy with their patients." Brenner, a prevention expert, analyzed the actual incidence of serious side effects during colonoscopy examinations in Germany.

In the study now published, intestinal bleeding requiring hospitalization occurred after no more than about five in 10,000 colonoscopies. Injuries to the intestinal wall were also very rare, with an incidence of less than one case in 1,000 exams. Deaths and non-local complications such as strokes or myocardial infarctions were not more frequent in the colonoscopy group than in the control group.

Thus, the complication rate is in a range which the prevention experts expected and consider being justifiable in view of the much greater benefit of screening. "The rare serious local complications usually only occur when a large polyp is detected and removed during a colonoscopy," says Hermann Brenner. "But these a
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Contact: Sibylle Kohlstdt
s.kohlstaedt@dkfz.de
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert

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