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Five-Minute Cancer Screening Could Save Thousands

April 28, 2010

A simple colon cancer test that takes about five minutes to complete could save thousands of lives, according to new research completed by medical experts at the Imperial College London.

Experts at the university found that a single flexible sigmoidoscopy examination, or Flexi-Scope test, could reduce bowel cancer occurrences by 1/3 in men and women between the ages of 55 and 64. Furthermore, over the course of the 16-year study, the mortality rate of those who had the Flexi-Scope test was 43-percent lower than those who did not undergo the sigmoidoscopy examination.

“Our study shows for the first time that we could dramatically reduce the incidence of bowel cancer, and the number of people dying from the disease, by using this one-off test,” Imperial College London Department of Surgery and Cancer Professor Wendy Atkin said in an April 27 press release.

“No other bowel cancer screening technique has ever been shown to prevent the disease. Our results suggest that screening with Flexi-Scope could save thousands of lives,” she continued.

“This trial is the first to show the real benefit of flexible sigmoidoscopy in preventing bowel cancer by detecting and removing polyps before they can develop into a cancer. We have a tremendous opportunity to use this procedure to push bowel cancer back down the league table of cancer cases in the UK,” added Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK.

The Flexi-Scope test is quicker and cheaper than a colonoscopy, and could be a tremendous health aid in the UK where, according to the researchers, five-percent of adults will suffer from bowel or colon cancer at some point in their lives. In addition, this is the third most common form of cancer in the UK, with 90-percent of those cases occurring in men and women over the age of 55, and it results in more than 16,000 fatalities annually.

The study was carried out by researchers from Imperial College London, University College London, Queen Mary University of London, the University of East Anglia and St Mark’s Hospital, the University of Oxford. It was sponsored by the Medical Research Council, the National Institute for Health Research, and Cancer Research UK and published in Wednesday’s edition of The Lancet medical journal.

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