Good news for the millions of older Americans who have a deep dread of undergoing a colonoscopy. A study led by the Mayo Clinic shows the less invasive virtual colonoscopy is equally effective at screening the colon for polyps or cancer.
“Virtual colonoscopy I utilize more for elderly people; if they’re in their 80s and they’re not the healthiest person. If virtual colonoscopy is negative and doesn’t show anything then that’s a reasonable test for them,” says Dr. Jeffrey Neale, colorectal surgeon with Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.
The standard colonoscopy involves sedating the patient, then inserting a long, flexible tube into their colon so doctors can look at the lining and extract polyps as needed. The virtual test replaces the probe, using a CT scan to get a detailed view. No sedation needed. It may also be a good fit for problematic patients.
“Some people’s colons are quite twisty and you just can’t get to the end of it. That virtual colonoscopy can look at the part of the colon you couldn’t see,” says Dr. Neale.
The virtual version has obvious advantages, but there is a downside. If the doctor sees something on the scan, they can’t do anything about it, until they go back in the old-fashioned way. That means patients have to purge with laxatives- twice.
“Yes it’s a great picture but if there’s polyps seen or something else is seen you’re going to have to have a colonoscopy after regardless,” says Dr. Neale.
So you’re taking your chances, by taking the easy way. But the most important point is to get screened. Almost half the people who should be tested, skip it altogether.