Harvard Experts Debate Benefits of Colorectal Cancer Screening Modalities

John Saltzman, MD, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of endoscopy at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and John Abramson, MD, lecturer in healthcare policy at Harvard Medical School, debate whether colonoscopy is the best modality for screening colon cancer.

In a Boston Globe news report, Dr. Saltzman said colonoscopy is a better way to screen for colon cancer than sigmoidoscopy because the latter modality has several disadvantages, including a limited view of the colon. While sigmoidoscopy only examines the bottom third of a patient's colon, colonoscopy is the only modality that screens the entire colon.

Dr. Abramson disagreed, saying there is a need for more "well-performed scientific studies" that prove colonoscopy is the better screening modality. Additionally, sigmoidoscopy does not require laxatives, which can be uncomfortable for patients, and amounts to only one-tenth of the cost of a colonoscopy. Because sigmoidoscopy doesn't require anesthesia, there is also a lowered risk of perforation of the colon, Dr. Abramson said.

Read the news report about colonoscopy versus sigmoidoscopy.

Read other coverage about colorectal cancer screening:

- Massachusetts Hospital Utilizes New Method for Detecting Colorectal Cancer

- Detection of Premalignant Colon Polyps Stable Throughout Workday Under Certain Conditions

- Position Changes During Colonoscope Withdrawal Can Increase Adenoma Detection Rate

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