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Colorectal cancer screening with nurse-performed flexible sigmoidoscopy: results from a Canadian community-based program


Background — Despite highest-quality evidence that early detection of colorectal cancer (CRC) can lead to reduced mortality, no organized CRC screening programs exist in Canada.

Objective — To report the safety, the feasibility, and the detection rate for the first Canadian community-based nurse-performed flexible sigmoidoscopy (FS) screening program for CRC, established in 1999.

Design — Cross-sectional analysis of data collected from a prospective study of FS done by nurses from March 1999 to November 2002. Estimate of differences between men and women in FS findings, with relative risks. Logistic regression used to calculate odds ratios for advanced neoplasia.

Setting — Endoscopy suite of a community hospital.

Patients — Asymptomatic men and women ≥50 years, with no previous history of CRC.

Intervention — FS done by a nurses, and colonoscopy for persons with abnormalities done by an experienced gastroenterologist.

Main Outcome Measurements — Mean depth of insertion of endoscope; duration of FS procedure; number and location of polyps found during FS; number, location, and type of polyps found during colonoscopy.

Results — A total of 1818 individuals (mean age, 62 years) underwent nurse-performed FS (mean duration, 7.3 minutes; mean depth of insertion of the endoscope, 53.5 cm), without complications. Results of the FS were abnormal for 240 (13.2%) of the 1818 participants; 231 (12.7%) underwent colonoscopy. Distal neoplasms (adenomas or cancer) were detected in 8.7% (158/1818). After adjustment for age and family history of CRC, the risk of advanced neoplasm in the distal colon for men was about twice that for women (odds ratio 1.95, 95% confidence interval 1.21-3.14). Cancer was detected in 5 of the 1818 participants screened (0.28%), and high-grade dysplasia was detected in an additional 5 (0.28%). One of the cancers and all the lesions with high-grade dysplasia were treated endoscopically.

Conclusions — Our community-based nurse-performed FS screening program was feasible and safe. The referral rate for colonoscopy was 13%, and the cancer detection rate was 2.8 per 1000 persons screened.



Shapero TF, Hoover J, Paszat LF, Burgis E, Hsieh E, Rothwell DM, Rabeneck L. Gastrointest Endosc. 2007; 65(4):640-5. Epub 2006 Dec 14.

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