Virtual Colonoscopy: Can It Provide Gain without Pain?

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It’s the test that every man and woman dreads — the colonoscopy. Normally, this procedure requires days of preparation, very strong laxatives, and a 5.9-foot-long tube that is used as a probe. It’s not hard to see why this particular test does not appeal to the masses. However, there is new technology available that may make lengthy probes associated with colonscopy a thing of the past.

 Now, a procedure called “virtual colonoscopy” or a “three- dimensional electron beam tomography (3D EBT) scan” can alert you to any presence of colon cancer without the trouble of a lengthy tube or hospital stay. The procedure costs around $750 in the U.S. Experts have debated it about for a while now. While it is now available for patients, some doctors argue that there isn’t enough proof that it works.

 It’s true that during a regular colonoscopy, polyps can be removed as the probe moves along. A virtual colonoscopy can not offer this function. Still, if the polyps are small (under half an inch), most doctors believe they don’t pose enough of a threat to be removed. However, the scan still works for detecting cancer.

 The virtual colonoscopy only requires some mild laxatives, one of which is a suppository, and a tube needs to go a few inches into the rectum — but it isn’t 5.9 feet. Patients generally experience only mild discomfort and no real pain. Also, they can leave the hospital as soon as the test is done, and can even get copies of the scan results to take home and peruse at their own leisure.

 Actually, the virtual colonoscopy has been around for 10 years now. It’s a wonder why it is taking so long to reach the mass market, when many doctors deem it a safe alternative to regular colonoscopy — especially since studies show that this idea definitely appeals to patients.

 A recent study in the Lancet showed that there is a lot of evidence that states the virtual experience is as good as the physically invasive, traditional kind. However, studies need to be done by unbiased parties so that people can know if a virtual colonoscopy is a more accurate — and more pleasant — alternative.

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Dr. Victor Marchione, MD

About the Author, Browse Victor's Articles

Victor Marchione, MD received his Bachelor of Science Degree in 1973 and his Medical Degree from the University of Messina in 1981. He has been licensed and practicing medicine in New York and New Jersey for over 20 years. Dr. Marchione is a respected leader in the field of smoking cessation and pulmonary medicine. He has been featured on ABC News and World Report, CBS Evening News and the NBC Today Show and is the editor of the popular The... Read Full Bio »