Having colonoscopy screening for bowel cancer every 10 years reduces the risks of dying from the disease by 88%, recent research has found.

For many years, gastrointestinal doctors have been urging people to undergo regular bowel cancer screening to protect themselves from the disease. Now researchers have confirmed that people who are given the all-clear after a colonoscopy are significantly less likely to die from bowel cancer compared to those who do not undergo screening.

Latest research

The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, was led by Jefferey Lee, MD, a gastroenterologist and research scientist at Kaiser Permanente’s Division of Research. It showed that 10 years after a colonoscopy returned a “normal” result, Kaiser Permanente members were 46% less likely to be diagnosed with bowel cancer and 88% less likely to die from the disease compared to those who didn’t undergo screening.

The study provides compelling evidence of the need to undergo colonoscopy screening – at least every 10 years or more frequently for higher risk groups (people over the age of 50 and those with a family history of bowel cancer).

Colonoscopy screening

So, why are colonoscopies such an effective way of screening for bowel cancer?  The answer lies in the fact that the disease develops from growths in the bowel called polyps or adenomas.

Over time – up to 10 years in some cases – these growths can become cancerous. During a colonoscopy, the doctor looks for signs of these growths and removes them, either before they have the chance to become cancerous or in the very early stages of the disease when it is most treatable.

Bowel cancer deaths

Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK, accounting for more than 16,000 deaths every year – or roughly 44 a day. More than half – 54% of bowel cancer is believed to be preventable and more than nine out of every 10 people who are diagnosed in the earliest stages will survive.

The good news is that the rate of people dying from bowel cancer has fallen sharply by more than 30% in the last 20 years, according to Cancer Research UK. Experts believe that among the reasons for this fall are better bowel screening programmes, improved public awareness of bowel cancer and improvements in treatment.

If you are offered bowel cancer screening, it is important not to ignore it as it could help to save your life. In England and Wales, everyone over the age of 60 is offered regular Faecal Immunochemical Testing. In Scotland it is offered to everyone over the age of 50.

Talk to a doctor | Colonoscopy London

If you have any concerns about your bowel health or are experiencing any symptoms that may be linked to bowel cancer, it is important to talk to a doctor or gastrointestinal specialist who will be able to refer you for diagnostic testing.

Even if you have had a colonoscopy that returned a “normal” result, it is important to seek help if you develop any symptoms such as blood in your poo or bleeding from your bottom.

Working with a specialist that can promptly diagnose and monitor your symptoms, will give you the best chance to get back to feeling your best.