Many Americans at high risk for colon cancer don't know how often they need to have a screening colonoscopy, researchers say.
The report follows the recent death of actor Chadwick Boseman, who died Aug. 28 at age 43 after a private, four-year battle with colon cancer. Boseman was best known for playing the superhero Black Panther.
Colon cancer is the third most common cause of cancer death in the United States. Because people with advanced polyps have triple the risk of developing cancer, it's generally recommended that they have a colonoscopy every three years.
But many doctors leave it to patients to know when they're due for screening.
To gauge the knowledge of these high-risk patients, Florida Atlantic University researchers analyzed interviews from 84 people, aged 40 to 91, with advanced colorectal polyps.
Of that group, nearly 29% weren't aware of the need for or timing of a repeat colonoscopy. Of these, about 17% were unaware of the recommended three-year interval between tests, and 12% didn't know that a follow-up surveillance colonoscopy was needed.
The study was recently published in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Digestive Systems.
"Our data demonstrate a lack of knowledge of patients with biopsy-proven advanced colorectal polyps about their need for repeat colonoscopy, as well as the proper surveillance interval," said study co-author Dr. Lawrence Fiedler. He's a gastroenterologist and an affiliate associate professor in the College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University, in Boca Raton.
"For patients with biopsy-proven advanced colorectal polyps, the interval for colonoscopy is about three years. Our data raise a challenge for us to rely on more objective data than self-reports," Fiedler said in a university news release.
"Clinicians should have the ability and willingness to share their objective findings with all clinical colleagues involved in the care of the patient," he added.
Fiedler said these efforts should include younger patients, such as Boseman.
Other types of screening for colon cancer include fecal immune testing, multi-targeted stool DNA testing and flexible sigmoidoscopy.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on colorectal cancer screening.