Bowel cancer screening can help reduce the number of bowel cancer deaths by up to 45%.

This is according to new research led by the University of South Australia.

Bowel cancer kills 700 000 worldwide

Each year, bowel (or colorectal) cancer kills 700 000 worldwide but this number would be much higher without pre-diagnostic colonoscopies, a study has found.

Data from 12 906 bowel cancer patients indicate that faecal occult blood testing (FOBT) with a follow-up colonoscopy plays a key role in catching the disease early before symptoms appear.

Researchers from UniSA’s Cancer Epidemiology and Population Health found that having one pre-diagnostic colonoscopy was associated with a 17 per cent reduction in cancer deaths, a 27 per cent reduction with two pre-diagnostic colonoscopy procedures and 45 per cent for three or more.

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Of the 12 906 records analysed, 37 per cent of the patients had pre-diagnostic colonoscopies and were more likely to live longer than those who were diagnosed after experiencing cancer symptoms.

Screening starts with a non-invasive test

Dr Ming Li, one of the study leaders, says that in South Australia, where the study was undertaken, those patients who had pre-diagnostic colonoscopies showed a “significant increase” in survival.

The risk of colorectal cancer death reduces step-wise with increasing numbers of colonoscopy examinations before symptoms appear, cutting the mortality rate from 17 per cent to 45 per cent,” she says.

“Our findings show the value of the National Bowel Screening Program which is now being rolled out to everyone in Australia over the age of 50 on a two-yearly basis. It involves doing a simple, non-invasive faecal occult blood test (FOBT) which, if positive, is followed up with a colonoscopy.”

Source: University of South Australia via www.sciencedaily.com