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Can a Gastroscopy or Colonoscopy Help Prevent Cancer?

Gastroscopy and colonoscopy are medical procedures used to examine the gastrointestinal tract. These procedures involve inserting a thin, flexible tube with a camera at the end into either the mouth (gastroscopy) or anus (colonoscopy) to visualise any abnormalities in the digestive system.

While these procedures are commonly used for diagnosing digestive issues, they have also been found to have a role in preventing cancer.


Understanding Gastroscopy and Colonoscopy

Gastroscopy and colonoscopy are both diagnostic procedures that allow doctors to view the inside of the gastrointestinal tract.

Both gastroscopy and colonoscopy are minimally invasive procedures, which means they do not require major incisions or hospital stays. They are typically performed as outpatient procedures and only take about 15-30 minutes to complete.



During gastroscopy, the doctor inserts a thin, flexible tube with a camera at the end (known as an endoscope) through the mouth and into the oesophagus, stomach and small intestine. This allows them to identify any abnormalities, such as inflammation, ulcers or tumours in the upper digestive system.



On the other hand, colonoscopy involves inserting an endoscope through the anus and into the large intestine (colon). This procedure is used to detect issues such as polyps, ulcerative colitis, and colorectal cancer.


Preventing Cancer with Gastroscopy and Colonoscopy

While both gastroscopy and colonoscopy are primarily used for diagnosing digestive issues, they have also been found to be effective in preventing cancer.


1) Early Detection and Removal of Abnormal Tissues

One of the main ways gastroscopy and colonoscopy can help prevent cancer is by detecting and removing abnormal tissues before they can develop into cancer.

During these procedures, doctors can remove any precancerous growths (known as polyps) or abnormal cells, reducing the risk of developing cancer in the future.


2) Screening for High-Risk Individuals

Another way these procedures can prevent cancer is by screening high-risk individuals.

Doctors may recommend gastroscopy or colonoscopy for people with a family history of digestive cancers or other risk factors, such as age, diet and lifestyle choices. This allows early detection and treatment if necessary.


Real Life Examples

The importance of gastroscopy and colonoscopy in preventing cancer can be seen in real life examples.

For instance, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that regular colonoscopies can prevent up to 40-60% of colorectal cancer recurrence and death.

Another study published in the Lancet Oncology showed that regular gastroscopies can reduce the risk of oesophageal cancer by up to 83%.



While gastroscopy and colonoscopy are commonly used for diagnosing digestive issues, they also play an important role in preventing cancer.

These procedures allow doctors to detect and remove abnormal tissues early on, reducing the risk of developing cancer in the future.

If you fall into a high-risk category, it is important to discuss with your gastro doctor the possibility of undergoing a gastroscopy or colonoscopy as a preventive measure. Early detection can save lives, and these procedures have been proven effective in doing so.