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Virtual Colonoscopy in Colorectal Cancer Prevention and Screening

A study included in the November issue of the journal Radiology revealed that accurate screening of colorectal cancer can be done// by a three-dimensional computed tomography (CT) colonography or virtual colonoscopy. More people would want to be screened by this method when it is covered by third-party payers.

"Our positive experience with virtual colonoscopy screening covered by health insurance demonstrates its enormous potential for increasing compliance for colorectal cancer prevention and screening," said lead author Perry J. Pickhardt, M.D., associate professor of radiology at The University of Wisconsin Medical School in Madison. "In addition, recent technical improvements have resulted in even better performance results."

Colorectal cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer mortality in the United States, and the American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that there will be 148,610 new cases diagnosed in 2006 and 55,170 deaths. The disease is largely preventable through screening for colon polyps, which are benign growths that may develop into cancer if not removed. ACS recommends that people at average risk for colorectal cancer begin regular colorectal cancer screening at age 50, but current compliance with this recommendation remains well below 50 percent. Many people resist screening because of the discomfort and inconvenience caused by the standard optical colonoscopy test.

"Our goal is not to take patients away from existing strategies like optical colonoscopy, but rather to attract those who are currently not being screened at all," Dr. Pickhardt said.

Virtual colonoscopy is less invasive than optical colonoscopy and produces precise and detailed 3-D "fly-through" images of the entire colon's interior without having to insert a scope. With virtual colonoscopy screening, there is essentially no risk of bleeding or of perforating the colon. There is no need for intravenous sedation, and the procedure is less
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