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Virtual Colonoscopy offers an alternative to patients

An option that many people don’t know about
Published: Mar. 18, 2022 at 4:30 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. It’s a perfect time to remind people how important it is to get screened for colon cancer.

Colonoscopy is the standard used for screening; a scope is inserted into the patient’s colon while a doctor looks for abnormalities.

But there is another option. It’s virtual colonoscopy.

Unlike a traditional colonoscopy, a virtual colonoscopy, also known as CT colonography, is actually a CT scan of the patient’s colon.

“It’s a non-invasive tool that really only takes about about fifteen minutes to do,” said Dr. Syam Reddy, radiologist with the American College of Radiology. ”[It’s] very convenient for the patient.”

There is no waiting period after the exam; patients can go about their daily routine after the procedure.

It also doesn’t have some of the risks associated with the scope that is used in a traditional colonoscopy.

But what about that dreaded prep that many people struggle with?

“The prep is similar but it’s a milder prep,” said Dr. Reddy. “[It’s] a little bit better tolerated by patients that I’ve spoken to. I think so that makes a world of difference.”

One downside: If doctors spot a polyp on the CT scan they aren’t able to take a sample. A patient would then have to undergo a traditional colonoscopy. Doctor Reddy said that happens about ten percent of the time.

An upside is that the scan can potentially catch other problems.

“We’re able to scan the rest of the body so we can look for osteoporosis or liver disease or maybe kidney stones or other problems the patient might not know they have,” said Dr. Reddy. “In some studies, we have found other malignancies the patients weren’t aware of.”

In the United States, 150,000 patients are diagnosed with colon cancer every year, according to the American College of Radiology.

Colonoscopy is recommended for people at age 45.

Click here to find a place in your area that offers virtual colonoscopy.

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