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Sigmoidoscopy is Effective in Screening for Colon Cancer

Update Date: Aug 13, 2014 09:02 AM EDT

Colonoscopy, which is a procedure that examines the inner lining of the large intestine by inserting a miniature camera through the anus, can be uncomfortable and expensive. In a new study out of Norway, researchers analyzed the effectiveness of sigmoidoscopy, which a less invasive and cheaper alternative to the colonoscopy. The team found that in clinical trials, a sigmoidoscopy can cut people's risk of death from color cancer.

In this study, the researchers, headed by Dr. Oyvind Holme, of Sorlandet Hospital in Kristiansand, Norway, gave more than 20,000 adults between the ages of 50 and 64 a one-time sigmoidoscopy. A sigmoidoscopy only examines the lower portion of the colon, particularly the left side of the organ. Half of this sample was also given a stool test, which can detect colon cancer as well. Their results were compared to a group of 78,000 adults from the same age group who did not receive any screening.

The researchers calculated that people who underwent a sigmoidoscopy were 27 percent less likely to die from colon cancer over the next 10 years in comparison to people who did not receive any screening tests. Holme concluded that a sigmoidoscopy could be a valuable preventive tool for colon cancer. However, he did not say that a sigmoidoscopy was the best option available because he and his colleagues did not compare the method to other available ones.

"We did not compare flexible sigmoidoscopy to other screening methods," Holme stated reported by WebMD.

Dr. James Church, a colorectal surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, added, "Sigmoidoscopy is definitely second-best to colonoscopy. Colonoscopy is not perfect, by any means [but] if you don't want to get colon cancer, colonoscopy is the best option."

Even though a colonoscopy involves a more intricate procedure, the screening method is more widely used in the U.S. because the camera offers an entire view of the colon. Both screening methods, however, can detect and prevent cancer.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

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