Colonoscopy is more than a simple screening test for cancer. Colonoscopies prevent cancer because during the procedure, the physician can identify and remove precancerous polyps that would otherwise become cancer.
“To a certain degree, it’s basic math: if more people got screened when recommended, we would see fewer deaths from colon cancer,” said Dr. Glenn Eisen, Gastroenterologist at The Oregon Clinic. “The earlier we find colon cancer, the higher the survival rate for the patient.”
Unfortunately, the CDC estimates one-third of Americans due for a colonoscopy still have not had the test done. So why aren’t more Americans getting screened?
“People have so many misperceptions about colon cancer: that it only happens to men, or when you’re quite old, or that you’ll have symptoms warning you ahead of time. But none of that is true,” warns Dr. Brian Applebaum, Gastroenterologist at The Oregon Clinic. “People put it off because they’re nervous or uncomfortable about the test. But my patients will tell you: a colonoscopy is far easier than colon cancer.”
Testing Numbers at The Oregon Clinic
A physician’s adenoma detection rate, or ADR, tells you how effective a physician is at identifying and removing adenomas – the higher percentage, the better they are. An adenoma is a non-cancerous tumor that over time can progress to become cancerous. The national benchmark ADR in male patients is 30%; The Oregon Clinic’s ADR in 2017 was 62%. In female patients, the national benchmark ADR is 20%, and The Oregon Clinic’s ADR in 2017 was 53%.
The Oregon Clinic’s Gastroenterologists outperform in other industry standards as well. Withdrawal times for the procedure should be slow, ensuring the physician is thoroughly checking for pre-cancerous polyps. Slower withdrawal times lead to potentially more polyps found, which lowers the patient’s risk of cancer. While national benchmarks advise physicians to take at least 6 minutes for this critical part of the procedure, The Oregon Clinic’s team averages almost twice the recommended withdrawal time.
The cecal intubation rate is the percentage of times the physician makes it to the cecum (a pouch that connects the small and large intestines). This quality indicator is important because it shows the provider is examining the whole colon. While the national benchmark is 90%, The Oregon Clinic’s cecal intubation rate in 2017 was 99%.
Bottom Line: Get Screened
All Americans should begin screening for colorectal cancer at the age of 50, but some should be doing it sooner. Individuals with a family history of colon cancer may be advised to get screened 10 years earlier. African Americans should begin getting screened at age 45. Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease or certain genetic syndromes may be at a higher risk of developing the disease. Anyone with symptoms of colorectal cancer, which include changes in stool, stomach pain, fatigue, or unexplained weight loss should talk with their doctor about whether to be screened.