According to a new research, irritable bowel syndrome patients are at no greater risk of having polyps, colon cancer or inflammatory bowel diseases than fit individuals undergoing colonoscopies.
The study has been published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.
"Patients and doctors get nervous about the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)," says William D. Chey, M.D., professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School. "They think the symptoms represent something more sinister."
"This study should reassure doctors and patients that typical IBS symptoms are not indicators of a more serious disease," he adds.
Chey was the lead author on the study, the largest prospective evaluation of the results of colonoscopies in patients with irritable bowel syndrome.
IBS symptoms include recurrent episodes of abdominal pain or cramping in connection with altered bowel habits.
IBS patients often undergo colonoscopies because physicians are particularly concerned about missing colorectal cancer or inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease, Chey says.
This research shows that it is unnecessary to order colonoscopies for IBS patients, unless they show other alarming symptoms like unexplained weight loss or anemia, bleeding from the GI tract, or have a family history of colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease or celiac disease, says Chey, who also is director of U-M's Gastrointestinal Physiology Laboratory and the Michigan Bowel Control Program.
"Lay people and doctors overuse colonoscopies, which are very expensive procedures, in patients with typical IBS symptoms and no alarm features. Of course, patients over the age of 50 years or who have alarm features should undergo colonoscopy to screen for polyps and colon cancer." Chey says.