Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

50+: Live Better, Longer

Font Size

Too Many Repeat Colonoscopies Performed

Screening Those Who Don't It Need May Put Others at Risk, Experts Say
WebMD Health News

Aug. 16, 2004 -- Doctors are performing too many follow-up colonoscopies on patients who have had benign colon polyps removed. This may make the procedure less available for others and may delay the diagnosis of colorectal cancer, a nationwide survey suggests.

After a precancerous colon polyp is removed, guidelines call for a follow-up or surveillance colonoscopy to check for precancerous polyps that may develop later. Surveillance colonoscopy is done every three to five years.

In the National Cancer Institute-funded survey, led by researchers at the University of California at Davis, roughly a quarter of the gastroenterologists -- doctors that commonly perform colonoscopies -- and half of the general surgeons reported deviating from these guidelines.

They reported performing follow-up colonoscopies on patients with small, benign growths called hyperplastic polyps. No repeat colonoscopy is recommended for these patients. In addition, they were also likely to perform repeat procedures on patients with small, single lesions -- called adenomas -- more often than recommended.

"Colonoscopy is a potentially limited resource from both a manpower and financial standpoint," study researcher Pauline Mysliwiec, MD, tells WebMD. "If physicians are over-performing surveillance, it can certainly impact the availability of screening for those who either haven't been screened or are symptomatic and need to be screened in a timely fashion."

An estimated 12 million to 18 million Americans have colon polyps, but some of these growths are more dangerous than others. A colonoscopy involves a lighted tube that is able to view the entire colon to check for any abnormal growths.

Long Waits Reported

An estimated 147,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year, and nearly 57,000 die from the disease. Just about all of these deaths could be avoided, experts say, if existing screening guidelines were universally followed.

Colonoscopy is a highly effective tool for both the diagnosis and prevention of colorectal cancer. Not only does it help identify early colorectal cancer, but the doctor can also remove precancerous growths before they become larger or turn into cancer.

Mysliwiec and colleagues surveyed a nationally representative sample of 349 gastroenterologists and 316 general surgeons for the study, published in the Aug. 17 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Today on WebMD

Eating for a longer, healthier life.
woman biking
How to stay vital in your 50s and beyond.
womans finger tied with string
Learn how we remember, and why we forget.
man reviewing building plans
Do you know how to stay healthy as you age?
fast healthy snack ideas
how healthy is your mouth
dog on couch
doctor holding syringe
champagne toast
Two women wearing white leotards back to back
Man feeding woman
two senior women laughing