Studies examine two methods of colon cancer screening

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According to a new study, Finland's national screening program for colon cancer has been successful -- to some extent. Doctors screened 106,000 people between the ages of sixty and sixty-four for the disease by analyzing fecal samples for blood and were able to identify four out of ten cases of colon cancer.

While colonoscopies are a much more thorough method, ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross says, "screening for blood in the stool is much cheaper and less invasive. Patients over fifty should have a colonoscopy every five to ten years, but since it is possible to develop cancer in the interval between the tests, their doctors should screen for blood in the stool as a possible warning sign."

CT colonographies -- or "virtual colonoscopies" -- are growing more popular, but doctors are questioning whether they should perform invasive procedures to remove the smallest polyps that show up on the scans. A new study suggests that it might be more cost effective to leave alone those polyps that are smaller than a centimeter, since they are unlikely to cause harm to the patients.

Dr. Ross points out, "There can also be unintended consequences for the patient's health due to complications of an invasive procedure like a colonoscopy," so it might be safer to not remove small polyps.