The number of sigmoidoscopy examinations that fail to attain an adequate depth of insertion increases progressively along with advancing age in men and women, according to a new study by a researcher at the San Francisco VA Medical Center (SFVAMC). In addition, the study found, women are up to twice as likely as men to have inadequate exams. The findings, which are based on reviews of thousands of records of sigmoidoscopies, suggest that a patients age and sex are important factors to consider in choosing among various colorectal cancer screening methods.
While the study does not pinpoint reasons for the climb in inadequate exams, the studys author speculates that several factors that accumulate with age may be to blame, including medical conditions that can complicate the procedure.
Flexible sigmoidoscopy, one of the most common screening tools for colorectal cancer, is a fairly simple procedure that is commonly performed in a doctors examination room. A sigmoidoscope -- a 60 centimeter-long flexible tube about the thickness of a finger -- is threaded into the patients rectum and lower third of the colon. A tiny video camera in the sigmoidoscope allows the doctor to examine the wall of the colon for polyps, cancers or other abnormalities. In practice, the sensitivity of this procedure as a screening tool depends on how much of the colon can be viewed. A reach of 50 to 60 centimeters into the colon from the anus is considered adequate. Yet, until now, the frequency with which sigmoidoscopies attain adequate reach during routine screening has been unknown. Nor has data been available to compare performance of sigmoidoscopies between men and women or people in different age groups.
Liese Greensfelder | EurekAlert!
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