Colon cancer screening is arguably the most important activity performed by gastroenterologists. Recent decreases in rates of death from colorectal cancer indicate that screening methods such as colonoscopy have a positive impact. There is still room for improvement, however, particularly in prevention of right-sided colon cancer. Practice issues, such as making colonoscopy more comfortable, safer, and less costly, are keys to continued success in cancer prevention. Colonoscopy techniques, technologies, and quality control measures have advanced to improve detection, classification, and removal of early neoplasias. In particular, slow, careful inspection of the colon by gastroenterologists who have been trained in lesion recognition has improved rates of detection of polypoid and flat neoplasias. Image enhancement methods such as chromoendoscopy have greatly improved neoplasia detection in patients with chronic colitis, but are not widely used because they are perceived as inconvenient. More convenient methods, such as "digital" chromoendoscopy, show promise but have had mixed results. Ultra-high magnification systems, including optical magnification and confocal endomicroscopy, can be used during the colonoscopy examination to evaluate small polyps, allowing physicians to make immediate diagnoses and decisions about whether to remove polyps. In patients with inflammatory bowel disease, improved imaging techniques could eliminate the needs for analysis of randomly selected biopsy samples and resection of all (neoplastic and non-neoplastic) polyps. It is important to maintain high standards of quality for colonoscopy examination, detection, and removal of high-risk lesions, as well as to make colon cancer screening more widely accepted and affordable for the entire at-risk population. © 2010 AGA Institute.
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