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Gold Standard for Early Detection of Colon Cancers

Colonoscopy is a procedure where a physician inserts a long thin tube into the colon. This tube is connected to a camera and the physician is able to examine the colon. The doctor is also able to remove small polyps, some of which would otherwise grow into cancerous tumors. Colonoscopy is considered the gold standard for finding and removing -- and possibly preventing – cancers of the colon and rectum. It can detect up to 95% of colon cancers.

Smiling doctor with apprehensive patient!

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Tired Physicians Less Accurate in Detecting Adenomas

Colonoscopy detection rates higher when performed in the morning than the afternoon!

The effectiveness of any medical procedure in preventing disease or making an accurate diagnosis depends largely on the skill, effectiveness, and performance of the physician. In a novel research project, investigators compared the results of colonoscopies performed in the morning versus the afternoon. Interestingly, the procedures performed in the morning were significantly more accurate than those done in the afternoon. Furthermore, there was an independent trend toward declining accuracy throughout the day. Researchers concluded that physician fatigue, which increases as the day progresses, impairs detection rates.

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Encouraging News on the Colonoscopy Front

Putting off having a colonoscopy? "Nicer" alternatives are being developed.

While certainly not our favorite screening procedure, colonoscopy remains the best method of detecting colorectal cancer early. A surprising number of people simply refuse this important screening test. Technology may be coming to their rescue (and ours also). Capsule endoscopy involves swallowing a large capsule with a camera at each end and the electronics to image the entire colon. Patients must prepare carefully before swallowing, then swallow the capsule which goes into "sleep mode" for the transit time to the colon, "wakes up" and for 10 hours images your colon! Is it a viable option yet?