Most medical organizations (AMA, WHO, etc.) have developed screening guidelines for colorectal cancer which say something to the effect of everyone over the age of fifty and those who are younger, but have a family history of colorectal cancer, should be getting regular colorectal screenings. However, many people who fall into this category try to avoid these screening like the plague. The reason is that the gold standard of colorectal screening, until recently that is, has been colonoscopy. While it is an effective way of detecting early signs of colorectal cancer, a colonoscopy involves several unpleasant things: a day of fasting and taking laxatives, anesthesia which requires someone to take you home from the procedure and that thing that scares us most about an alien abduction, the probe. Call them strange if you will, but even though the anesthesia takes care of any discomfort they might feel, the idea of someone poking a camera into their nether region just doesn’t sit well with most people.
Along comes Virtual Colonoscopy and now the millions of previously probed patients and those who have refused the rectal reconnaissance, are breathing a sigh of relief. What is this magical procedure? Simply put, it’s a CT Scan. So here is what is different. While there are still some laxatives involved, there is no more anesthesia and no more probing. The VC (or CT Colonoscopy) does require some air to be pumped into the colon, and intravenous contrast, but the whole test is over in 10-15 minutes.
Another advantage is that some parts which are often missed on a regular colonoscopy, like the cecum, can be seen clearly and as a side benefit, tissues and organs outside the colon can be seen as well. Should something questionable show up on the images, a follow up colonoscopy or biopsy might be required, but for most patients it ends with the CT Scan.
Alisa Flom Patient Relations Coordinator