More people need colonoscopies and a recent study reveals there is a 50-percent screening gap between those who have the procedure versus those who should be screened. Because there are not enough gastroenterologists to perform colonoscopies, researchers from the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health say it is safe to go to a general physician to get one.
The Director of South Carolina Statewide Cancer Prevention and Control Program at USC Dr. James Hebert cites the study’s findings that screening colonoscopies given by primary-care doctors are comparable to those by experienced gastroenterologists. Hebert says that the study also shows that patients may be more comfortable discussing the procedure with their primary care physician. Hebert says,
You have that conversation with your primary care doc and that doctor can then do the procedure. The patient is more likely to undergo the procedure. So, it’s not just that they’re tuned in to it, but they now have a relatively easy way to do this with somebody they trust.
Screening colonoscopies performed by primary-care physicians under strict protocols are as safe and effective as those performed by experienced gastroenterologists, says Dr. Herbert.
If they’re backed with somebody that has that kind of training, which in the model, they are, then they can be rescued if there’s a problem; they can be consulted if there’s an interesting and weird finding. So it’s really important to stress that this actually elevates the gastroenterologist and the surgeons to a more exalted position in terms of their specialized experience.
Colon cancer is one of the few preventable forms of cancer. Dr. Hebert says that a colonoscopy is considered the best test available to identify and prevent colorectal cancer,
Because it’s a proven preventive. There’s been some large scale trials that have shown that when these procedures are done at the kind of quality we observed in that study, they save lives.
Dr. Hebert says that early detection aids in prevention:
But you’re also down-staging the disease, moving from later stage to earlier stage cancers for people that do have the cancer. So, yeah, they still have cancer, but they’re going to be way more treatable at stage one than they’re going to be a stage three.
At later stages, the survival rate is poor. If untreated, colorectal cancers will lead to death.