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50+? Time for a colonoscopy!

Last updated on April 19, 2024 First published on February 22, 2024

In Switzerland, over 4,000 people are newly diagnosed with colorectal cancer every year. If detected early, there is a good chance of recovery. But too few people undergo the necessary preventive examinations.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer in Switzerland. According to statistics, around 1,700 people die from it in Switzerland every year. "That doesn't have to be the case. Because in the vast majority of cases, bowel cancer can be cured if it is detected early," says Prof. Dr. med. Gerhard Rogler. Gerhard Rogler is Director of the Clinic for Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the USZ. "With a good prevention program, we could even avoid two thirds of cases," he adds.

A colonoscopy is the best cancer prevention

During a colonoscopy, a thin tube (endoscope) is inserted into the large intestine via the anus. A camera and a lamp are attached to the tip of the endoscope. In this way, preliminary stages of bowel cancer can be detected and removed directly. The Cancer League recommends a colonoscopy for people aged 50 and over, as age is the greatest risk factor. According to estimates, however, only around 15 percent of people over the age of 50 follow this recommendation, although the costs of the examination are covered by health insurance from this age up to the 70th birthday. According to Gerhard Rogler, further information and education campaigns are needed. GPs and specialists, but also politicians and health insurance companies, are called upon to address the issue of cost coverage. Gerhard Rogler is convinced: "Although screening programs mean additional costs in the short term, expensive operations and chemotherapy can be saved in the long term." With a good quality colonoscopy, the detection rate is high; polyps and tumors are reliably detected. "That can save lives," says Gerhard Rogler. "After my lecture, a student convinced her parents to have a colonoscopy. A tumor was discovered in her father. He has since undergone successful surgery."