more on colorectal screening…

A couple of quotes from this weeks’ BMJ.

“Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, called on the next government to add the test to the existing national bowel screening programme as one of its first priorities. “I think it is a no brainer,” he said. “This is the most important development in cancer research for years. We very rarely see results as good as this.”


“The study’s leader, Wendy Atkin, professor of biosurgery and surgical technology at Imperial College London, said, “There has never before been trial evidence that shows that removing polyps reduces cancer incidence. This one-off 5 minute examination produces a big effect, reducing mortality by 43%.”

..except it isn’t a one off 5 minute examination that cuts mortality, it’s the following further tests and procedures and surgery that does so, and which will be expected to also do some harm to some people.

I hate it when good research becomes  part of a pressurised sales campaign.

One Response to “more on colorectal screening…”

  1. Elizabeth (Aust) May 23, 2012 at 3:06 am #

    I went to see a specialist this morning – she comes highly recommended. My sisters and I are being pressured to have colonoscopies after our elderly mother was diagnosed with bowel cancer at age 77. (almost 78) We’re considered “high risk” – “1 in 7 chance of developing bowel cancer.” I’m cautious with those sorts of statements, I know they’re misleading and even designed to scare. I don’t consider myself high risk, my mother was almost 78, not 55 and the 1 in 7 is lifetime risk including old age and we all have to die from something.

    Well, the specialist suggested a “top and tail” (colonoscopy and gastroscope) – “might as well if you’re going to be sedated…we’ll have a good look around”. The specialist has been having colonoscopies since she was 40, every 5 years…sounded way over the top to me. She also sees people in their 30s with bowel cancer – that doesn’t help me – I want to make a decision based on evidence, not because young people get bowel cancer. Healthy people also get harmed and may even die from screening or what follows…but we don’t hear about that so much.
    I’ll do my reading, but so many doctors become prickly if you politely question them…we’re expected to just agree to the procedures, it’s a no-brainer. I tried to explain why I’m cautious with screening, using breast screening as an example – women often don’t get balanced information, but adding I was not judging her…perhaps, we’ll get more honesty with bowel screening, because men have bowels as well…I’ll still do my reading.