Have IBD? You May Need More Frequent Colonoscopy Screenings.

A new study found that patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) who had a colonoscopy every one to three years were less likely to be diagnosed with advanced colon cancer.

IBD Increases Colon Cancer Risk

Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Although anyone can develop colon cancer, certain risk factors and conditions can increase the likelihood of developing the disease. One condition that can increase the risk of colon cancer is IBD, a general term that describes chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

There are two types of IBD:

  • Ulcerative colitis — a chronic condition that causes inflammation of the colon
  • Crohn’s disease — a chronic condition that affects the digestive tract lining. Patients with Crohn’s disease may have healthy parts of the intestine as well as inflamed regions in both the small and large bowel.

Colon inflammation can cause a constant turnover of cells in the lining of the intestine, which increases the likelihood of cell irregularities that can result in cancer.

IBD Patients May Need a Colonoscopy Every One to Three Years

A new study published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology evaluated how varying colonoscopy intervals affected colon cancer outcomes in patients with IBD. The outcomes evaluated included the following:

  • Stage of colon cancer at the time of detection
  • Colon cancer treatment
  • Mortality

The study showed that “Colonoscopy within three years prior to CRC [colorectal cancer] diagnosis compared with no colonoscopy was less likely to be diagnosed with late tumor stage,” said Hyun-seok Kim, MD, MPH, of Baylor College of Medicine. “Colonoscopy within one year was associated with lower all-cause mortality than no colonoscopy. Our findings support the use of surveillance colonoscopy to improve CRC outcomes in IBD patients” (Healio).

How IBD Patients Can Reduce Risk of Colon Cancer

If you have IBD, there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk of colon cancer:

  1. See a gastroenterologist at least once per year or if you have any changes in symptoms.
  2. Schedule your colonoscopy at intervals recommended by your gastroenterologist.
  3. Follow all instructions from your GI doctor to prepare for a colonoscopy.
  4. Take prescribed medications as directed, even when your IBD is under control.
  5. Contact your doctor if one of your family members develops colon cancer or precancerous polyps.
  6. Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly.

Colonoscopy Is the Gold Standard of Colon Cancer Screening

Colon cancer is highly treatable when doctors find it early. Colonoscopy is the gold standard of colon cancer screening because it is the only test that allows a doctor to detect and remove pre-cancerous polyps in the same procedure. It is the only test that is appropriate for individuals who have a family history of colon cancer.

Make an Appointment for a Colonoscopy

The American Cancer Society recommends that all adults at average risk for colon cancer begin screening at 45. Don’t delay in scheduling your colonoscopy. This test is a life-saving procedure, so call your gastroenterologist today and make an appointment for a screening.