Article Text


Circumstances in which colonoscopy misses cancer
  1. Linda Rabeneck1,2,3,
  2. Lawrence F Paszat2,3
  1. 1Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
  2. 2Department of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
  3. 3The Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr L Rabeneck, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, 2075 Bayview Avenue, Room T2-025, Toronto M4N 3M5, Canada; linda.rabeneck{at}


Colonoscopy is associated with a varying risk of missing colorectal cancer (CRC). The objective of this paper was to review the existing evidence that indicates when colonoscopy may miss cancer in usual clinical practice and to provide information that would be helpful to endoscopists in their daily practice. CRC is diagnosed within 3 years in about 5% of persons with CRC who undergo colonoscopy in whom the cancer is not detected. Future research should be directed at disentangling the relative contributions of tumour biology and colonoscopy quality in explaining this result. When consent is obtained for colonoscopy, patients must be informed of the small risk that a cancer may not be detected. Steps that can be taken to address colonoscopy quality include formal training in colonoscopy and polypectomy technique, coupled with maintenance of skills by performing at least 300 colonoscopies per year. The use of split dose bowel preparation is advised. Colonoscopy should be completed to the caecum with documentation of landmarks (ileocaecal valve; appendiceal orifice). Careful colonoscopy technique includes examining the proximal sides of flexures and folds, washing and suctioning debris and ensuring adequate colonic distension. Caecal intubation and adenoma detection rates should be reported and reviewed. Lesions should be completely removed at polypectomy and attention given to appropriate surveillance.

Statistics from


  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Request permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.