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Whole-colon investigation vs. flexible sigmoidoscopy for suspected colorectal cancer based on presenting symptoms and signs: a multicentre cohort study.

Research paper by Amanda J AJ Cross, Kate K Wooldrage, Emma C EC Robbins, Kevin K Pack, Jeremy P JP Brown, William W Hamilton, Michael R MR Thompson, Karen G KG Flashman, Steve S Halligan, Siwan S Thomas-Gibson, Margaret M Vance, Brian P BP Saunders, Wendy W Atkin

Indexed on: 20 Dec '18Published on: 20 Dec '18Published in: British Journal of Cancer



Abstract

Patients with suspected colorectal cancer (CRC) usually undergo colonoscopy. Flexible sigmoidoscopy (FS) may be preferred if proximal cancer risk is low. We investigated which patients could undergo FS alone. Cohort study of 7375 patients (≥55 years) referred with suspected CRC to 21 English hospitals (2004-2007), followed using hospital records and cancer registries. We calculated yields and number of needed whole-colon examinations (NNE) to diagnose one cancer by symptoms/signs and subsite. We considered narrow (haemoglobin <11 g/dL men; <10 g/dL women) and broad (<13 g/dL men; <12 g/dL women) anaemia definitions and iron-deficiency anaemia (IDA). One hundred and twenty-seven proximal and 429 distal CRCs were diagnosed. A broad anaemia definition identified 80% of proximal cancers; a narrow definition with IDA identified 39%. In patients with broad definition anaemia and/or abdominal mass, proximal cancer yield and NNE were 4.8% (97/2022) and 21. In patients without broad definition anaemia and/or abdominal mass, with rectal bleeding or increased stool frequency (41% of cohort), proximal cancer yield and NNE were 0.4% (13/3031) and 234. Most proximal cancers are accompanied by broad definition anaemia. In patients without broad definition anaemia and/or abdominal mass, with rectal bleeding or increased stool frequency, proximal cancer is rare and FS should suffice.