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Colon Cancer Screening More Likely If Doctors Offer Testing Options

Julia Little  |  April 23, 2012
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Getting a colonoscopy is an important step for people to take as they age, but many try to avoid the invasive procedure. A new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggests that more people would get colonoscopies if doctors offered it as a choice, rather than a requirement.

When doctors recommend a colonoscopy as the only means of testing, just 38 percent of patients follow up and get the procedure. However, if the colonoscopy is presented as an option instead of another test, such as a fecal occult blood test, 69 percent of people get one or the other. When only the blood test is suggested, 67 percent of people follow up and get the test done. The study suggests that doctors who only recommend colonoscopies may be stopping people from getting screened altogether.

Attitudes about colonoscopies were further broken down by racial lines. White patients overwhelmingly chose colonoscopies when given a choice. However, most Latino, Asian and African-American study participants who opted to get tested decided to go with the fecal blood test. Overall, 38 percent went with the blood test while 31 percent opted for the colonoscopy, with the remainder not following up. That's a much narrower gap than when solely one option is presented.

Theodore Levin, a gastroenterologist at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, authored a commentary to go along with study. Levin suggests that doctors are missing out on an opportunity to get more patients screened for colon cancer.

"If we're recommending screening that patients don't want to do, they're just going to say no," he wrote.

As seniors grow older, a number of different medical conditions may develop. Many caregivers find that it's best for seniors to enroll in elder care facilities in order to ensure they have someone looking after them at all times once these conditions begin.

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