Detection of Colon Carcinoma and the Barium Enema

Roscoe E. Miller, MD
JAMA. 1974;230(8):1195-1198. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03240080069040.
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ACCORDING to the latest estimate of the American Cancer Society, new cases of cancer of the colon and rectum will be found in 99,000 Americans during this coming year.1 In the same year, 48,000 Americans will die of that disease. The situation need not continue to be this grim, since cancer of the colon is highly curable if it is treated early. Selected studies report a 71% five-year survival rate after surgery of localized disease.2

The barium enema is the principal method for detecting colon cancer other than by direct observation with the sigmoidoscope and colonoscope. The recent introduction of fiber colonoscopy (examination of the entire colon by fiber optics) is a helpful diagnostic addition in detection of cancer of the colon. However, the expense of this examination is far greater than that of a barium enema, and the number of instruments available, as well as of skilled


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