LETTER TO THE EDITOR: A colonoscopy may save your life
The following is a letter to the editor submitted to the Bemidji Pioneer by a reader. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Bemidji Pioneer. To submit a letter, email email@example.com or mail it to Bemidji Pioneer, P.O. Box 455, Bemidji, MN 56601.
Thank you for printing the complete and accurate article “ Scope or Sample? With colon screening some doctors differ ” (published Dec. 15 on Page A7) about the recent Mayo clinic survey of primary care providers and their recommendations concerning colon cancer screening.
In reporting the various methods of screening we have available and with the volume of information, and disinformation, that is so easily available on TV commercials and social media, it might lead to the mistaken impression that all screening methods are created equal.
If 100 people with known colon cancer were stool tested for blood (FOBT, FIT tests) less than 30 of the cancers would actually be detected. Using the sDNA Cologuard test, greater than 95 of the cancers would be detected, a great improvement.
Unfortunately, none of the stool sample testing techniques are good for detecting the precursor to colon cancers: polyps. Greater than 90% of all colon cancers start as a polyp and polyps almost never cause any symptoms.
Part of the goal of colon cancer screening is to find polyps early and remove them before they turn into cancers, thereby preventing colon cancers from forming in the first place, not just detecting them after they have already turned into a cancer.
RELATED: Read more letters to the editor
It is my impression that the general public, and unfortunately even many primary care providers nationwide, are unaware that the stool tests are poor screening tests for polyps. That is why, as reported in the article, physicians who specialize in gastrointestinal disease overwhelmingly recommend colonoscopy as the gold standard screening test. Colonoscopies allow the physician to not only perform an excellent screening, but also to remove any identified polyps before they have a chance to turn into a cancer.
Bottom line (pun intended): get your colonoscopy! If it’s normal, it gives you great peace of mind for up to 10 years. If it’s not normal, the colonoscopy may save your life.
Dr. Mark Claussen is a general surgeon at the Sanford Bemidji Medical Center.