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Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2004 Feb;19 Suppl 1:71-6.

Review article: balancing the ideal versus the practical-considerations of colorectal cancer prevention and screening.

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Portland Veterans Administration Hospital - P3-GI, Portland, Oregon 97239-1034, USA.


Colorectal cancer is responsible for over 500 000 deaths annually world-wide. Death from colorectal cancer is preventable, primarily through early diagnosis of disease that has not metastasized. The disease itself may be prevented by the detection and removal of colorectal adenomas, from which more than 95% of colorectal cancers arise. Currently there are several screening methods for the disease. These include faecal occult blood tests, sigmoidoscopy, barium enema and colonscopy as well as emerging methods of virtual colonoscopy and faecal DNA testing. While direct and indirect evidence support the efficacy of these tests they differ from each other in their sensitivity, specificity, cost, and safety. Various professional organizations in different geographical regions of the world have published recommendations on which screening methods to use and when in patients at average- or high-risk. The challenge in reducing the incidence and mortality of this disease lies in increasing accessibility to and compliance with screening and delivery within a quality assured programme.

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