You may have seen the recent headlines proclaiming that colonoscopy prevents colorectal cancer deaths. But when you look closer, it’s obvious that behind all of these sensational headlines there’s nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
As you know, I’ve never been an advocate for this “routine” screening. In my forensic medicine practice, I saw case after case of perforated intestines and peritonitis (a potentially lethal inflammation of the abdominal lining), lacerated and punctured livers with massive bleeding, and other fatal complications. All from “routine” colonoscopies.
Nevertheless, its use has increased exponentially since 2001, when Medicare began covering it. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs then endorsed it as a primary screening option for patients older than 50.
Around this same time, Katie Couric famously underwent her colonoscopy live on TV to promote awareness of the test, leading to a tremendous spike in men and women getting the test. In fact, experts now estimate that a whopping 14 million Americans undergo this dangerous and expensive procedure every year.
But the groundwork for this test was laid even farther back…
I remember in the late 1970s when I had returned to complete my M.D. at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School after doing my overseas fieldwork for my Ph.D. in medical anthropology.
My old med school classmates got together for a summer picnic. They had just completed all their basic training and were moving onto various medical sub-specialties. Internal medicine was (and is) a popular general medicine specialty.
But my colleagues worried about the financial aspects.
While they found internal medicine intellectually challenging (as compared to many technical sub-specialties i.e. cardiology, radiology, ENT, etc.), they needed to find procedures they could perform in order to make a good living.
And the newly emerging technique of colonoscopy fit the bill.
Already back then, the system was changing, in that spending the indispensable time evaluating and counseling patients was not valued — or, more accurately, not “reimbursed.”
Of course, performing procedures is inherently more invasive, dangerous, and more expensive — which is all a part of mainstream medicine’s plan to rake in the big bucks.
Indeed, insisting all patients undergo a major procedure misses two basic points about medical care: It places individual patients at unnecessary risks and subjects our entire society to the burdens of an overly expensive, dangerous healthcare system.
Instead, we should always start with non-invasive medical evaluation, physical examination, counseling, and talking (and listening) to the patient — all of which have shown immense therapeutic value for many years. This process is how a sensible healthcare system works, as I’ve described for 25 years in my medical textbook, Fundamentals of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, now going into its 6th edition.
It also reminds me of the old invocation in the operating room, “Don’t just stand there, do something!”
When in turn, the most sensible approach is often, “Don’t just do something — stand there!”
Smoke and mirrors obscure the facts
The new study used data from the Veterans Affairs Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services to demonstrate that colonoscopy reduces colon cancer deaths among veterans. But when I looked closer at the findings, I realized it was all just a bunch of baloney…
Maybe some government health bureaucrat was just trying to justify another wrong-headed decision by the VA to provide more colonoscopies — despite lack of benefit.
The study authors said, “our estimates of reductions in CRC [colorectal cancer] are similar to those from different health care settings, which supports the validity of our findings.”
No studies “from different healthcare settings” have been done to compare colonoscopy directly to other, non-invasive, effective screening techniques.
Then, the silliness continued in Medscape, an online journal for physicians…
The author quoted Jeffrey Meyerhardt, M.D., M.P.H., a so-called “expert” in gastrointestinal cancer, who is the Clinical Director and Senior Physician at the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Meyerhardt was quoted as saying, “these findings confirm that performing colonoscopies and colon cancer screening reduces colorectal cancer mortality and improves outcomes for patients.”
First of all, Dr. Meyerhardt was not involved in the study. He’s just there in the article as an “expert” window dressing.
Second, there’s nothing to “confirm.” Because, again, no study has ever shown that screening with colonoscopy reduces deaths from cancer any better than other screening techniques.
Perhaps Dr. Meyerhardt just wants to “confirm” all the unsubstantiated claims over decades that built this billion-dollar industry for him and his colleagues?
Furthermore, Dr. Meyerhardt’s vague, overly inclusive statement doesn’t differentiate between colonoscopy and all those other colon cancer screenings that are effective and non-invasive. For example, the new, affordable Cologuardâ cancer screening test uses DNA to detect any possible cancers without invasive procedures. Plus, you can do it yourself in the comfort of your own home.
And what about the similar fecal immunochemical test (FIT), which detects blood in the stool, and can also be done at home?
Buried further in the Medscape report came another damning point…
The researchers admit there’s no strong evidence from randomized, controlled trials demonstrating that colonoscopy reduces CRC mortality.
And there you have it in a nutshell. From the researchers themselves!
We don’t have any evidence from randomized, controlled trials “confirming” that colonoscopy reduces mortality — which should be the ultimate goal of any procedure. Nor do we have evidence showing it works better than other, safer techniques
Indeed, this whole report is “fake news.” And — really — it’s hardly even newsworthy at all…
We already knew the colonoscopy is the most expensive, the most inconvenient, the most dangerous, and probably the most inappropriate medical procedure being performed today. And this new study didn’t show us anything new to contradict that evidence.
When I first read the ridiculous headlines claiming some kind of breakthrough finding from this study, I really just couldn’t believe it. And rest assured, if your doctor doesn’t have time to read past headlines like these, know that I do…
That’s why I’ll continue to bring you all the latest breakthroughs and science-backed recommendations, so you can focus on living your best life. I’m truly passionate about providing my readers with the insider information you won’t find in mainstream medicine or big government-influenced agendas.
Simply stay tuned to my Daily Dispatch — as well as the in-depth coverage in my monthly newsletter, Insiders’ Cures — for the latest news on colon health in addition to all the health topics most important to you. (And if you’re not yet a newsletter subscriber, what better time to start than now? Simply click here.)
“Colonoscopy significantly reduces CRC deaths,” Medscape (www.medscape.com) 3/14/2018
“Colonoscopy and Colorectal Cancer Mortality in the Veterans Affairs Health Care System: A Case–Control Study,” Annals of Internal Medicine (www.annals.org) 3/14/2018