Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients only need a colonoscopy once in every five years, suggests a study. Those not at high risk may be allowed more years in-between colonoscopies. The findings from University Medical Center Utrecht suggests patients with active IBD who undergo regular colonoscopies have a lower occurrence of interval colorectal cancer, meaning, they can switch to going for a colonoscopy every five years.
The researchers conducted a retrospective analysis of IBD patient information gathered from 1,273 patients. Patients underwent a total of 4,327 surveillance colonoscopies between January 1, 2000 and January 1, 2014. Patients were monitored for factors that would increase their risk for colon cancer, including inadequate procedures, inadequate surveillance, or inadequate dysplasia management.
The researchers found that 1.3 percent of patients developed colon cancer with the median interval from their last colonoscopy being 22 months. The researchers wrote, “This study shows that the incidence of [colorectal cancer] among IBD patients enrolled in a surveillance program is low compared with previous studies, with only 17 cancers detected during 6,823 years of follow-up evaluation. This might support the longer surveillance interval of up to five years as recommended in the current [British Society of Gastroenterology] and European Crohn’s and Colitis Organization guidelines, although the fact that one third of all CRC cases appear to be interval carcinomas underscores the need to further identify risk factors associated with the development of interval cancer.”
Diagnosing and managing IBD
If natural or over-the-counter remedies have not helped your gastrointestinal symptoms, you could be suffering from inflammatory bowel disease. If your doctor suspects you have IBD, they will send you to a gastrointestinal specialist to help aid in diagnosis and treatment.
Typical symptoms of IBD include abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, and extreme fatigue. Symptoms are a result of inflammation in the intestines. The classic symptoms of IBD may be accompanied by other symptoms as well, affecting the eyes, joints, skin, bones, kidneys, and liver.
During the diagnostic process, your physician will explore your medical history and perform a physical examination. Tests include blood and stool samples, checking for markers of inflammation, ruling out other diseases and conditions, endoscopy, colonoscopy, biopsy, and imaging tests. Some tests are more invasive than others, but generally well tolerated with minimal risk.
If a diagnosis of IBD is made, your doctor may require surveillance colonoscopies. Having IBD increases the risk of colon cancer, so they must check disease progression along with any polyps that may indicate cancer.
Although IBD is a lifelong condition, advancements in treatment have come a long way. Proper IBD management is possible with a combination of lifestyle modifications and medical intervention. The key is early detection, so it’s important you see your doctor as soon as you begin to experience symptoms related to IBD.