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'Virtual' Colonoscopy an Effective Option: Study
Date:10/3/2007

The screen uses CT scans and is performed without anesthesia

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 3 (HealthDay News) -- A new study supports the effectiveness of an innovative form of colonoscopy that relies on a CT scanner that's sent through a patient's colon.

When it comes to detecting polyps that might become malignant, this so-called "virtual colonoscopy" is just as effective as the traditional approach of using a fiber-optic device, explained study lead Dr. David Kim, assistant professor of radiology at the University of Wisconsin.

The real advantage to the technology is that "it can do it in a less invasive manner for less cost and at less risk," he said.

According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States among both men and women. It's especially common among people over the age of 50. An estimated 112,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with the disease this year, and 52,000 will die.

Colonoscopies are considered essential to preventing the disease, but many people don't get them because of the cost or because of their reputation as being uncomfortable.

Virtual colonoscopies, by contrast, offer patients less discomfort, and Kim said could cost only one-third of the price.

Just as happens with the conventional test, patients using the virtual screen must still cleanse their bowels by using laxatives beforehand and have a catheter inserted into the rectum to expand their colon with carbon dioxide, Kim said.

However, unlike the traditional procedure, the patients aren't sedated, although Kim said they may feel "crampy" until the procedure is over.

CT scanners image the colons to look for signs of trouble. Doctors look at three-dimensional images on computers that "put you inside of the colon so you can navigate your way to look for polyps," Kim explained.

In the new study, Kim's team compared
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