Computers and X-rays imaging have embraced to refine the way we search for signs of colon cancer, which is a welcome option for those who dread the traditional scope exam.
Two of the largest studies yet on “virtual colonoscopy” show the technique, which produces two and three-dimensional images and displays them on a screen, work as well at spotting potentially cancerous growths as the more invasive method. The procedure, which is used to diagnose colon and bowel disease, including polyps, diverticulosis, and cancer, is also faster and much less expensive than the conventional scope exam.
Colonoscopies are typically recommended for everyone over the age of 50, though just about 50% of the population gets tested. Medical professionals and proponents of the virtual screening method hope the newer form of testing will encourage those who may have initially avoided conventional screening methods. Colon cancer is the nation’s second leading cause of cancer deaths, and an estimated 52,000 will die from it this year.
One study showed that only 8 percent of patients who were tested utilizing the “virtual colonoscopy” method required a follow-up traditional colonoscopy, which are done under sedation and carry a small risk of puncturing the bowel.
Virtual colonoscopies involve the patient lying on their back on a table, which is then moved through a scanner to produce a series of two-dimensional cross-sections along the length of the colon. A computer program puts these images together to create a three-dimensional picture that can be viewed on a video screen or monitor.
After the exam, the information from the scanner must be processed to create the computer image of the colon. A radiologist then evaluates the results to identify any abnormalities.
This provides a clearer, more detailed image than a conventional x-ray using a barium enema. The virtual colonoscopy also takes about 10 minutes and does not necessitate the use of sedatives, allowing the patient to resume normal activity after the procedure.
Life Test Atlanta offers the Virtual Colonography using an EBCT (Electron Beam Computed Tomography) scanner, which utilizes a very low degree of radiation to achieve maximum results.