Sigmoidoscopy test greatly reduces risk of bowel cancer
Flexible sigmoidoscopy test just once greatly reduces life–time risk of bowel cancer
A world expert in cancer screening based at the University of Otago says new evidence from the United Kingdom strongly supports the introduction of flexible sigmoidoscopy screening for bowel cancer in New Zealand rather than the currently planned screening approach.
Associate Professor Brian Cox says a flexible sigmoidoscopy screening test once when aged 55-64 reduces lifelong risk of bowel cancer by 35 per cent and mortality from bowel cancer by 41 per cent. This 15-minute test once in a person’s lifetime provides by far the most cost-effective strategy for reducing bowel cancer in New Zealand. The markedly reduced risk begins almost immediately if the test does not find cancer present. This is the most cancer-preventing 15 minutes anyone could ever undertake.
The results of the UK trial of flexible sigmoidoscopy recently published in the prestigious journal The Lancet confirmed that the reduced bowel cancer incidence and mortality persists for at least 17 years after the flexible sigmoidoscopy test with no evidence that this profound protection from bowel cancer wears off over time. That is the benefit is very likely to persist for the rest of a person’s life.
Professor Cox says, “Flexible sigmoidoscopy screening results in thousands of operations for bowel cancer being prevented and major savings in treatment costs that can then be used to fund a national flexible sigmoidoscopy screening programme.
“The earlier results of the trial at 11 years of
follow-up were published in 2010 but were not deemed
sufficient by the Ministry of Health to guide the
development of bowel screening policy in New Zealand and
only a pilot study of two-yearly FOBT screening was pursued.
This has been a fundamental impediment to the development of
the most cost-effective approach to reducing the incidence
of bowel cancer in New Zealand. The evidence from the UK
trial clearly indicates the need to completely rethink the
approach to bowel screening in New Zealand before an
exorbitantly expensive second-rate FOBT program is
instituted. As the test only needs to be offered once for
the benefit to occur, resulting in many fewer referrals for
colonoscopy than the proposed FOBT screening program, a
national flexible sigmoidoscopy programme could begin within
12 months covering the entire country. It is now clear that
best practice in health care delivery involves the offer of
flexible sigmoidoscopy screening. General practitioners are
ideally placed to initiate such a screening programme.”