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Colonoscopy: There’s a Choice, Go Virtual!

Article Submitted by Front Range Preventive Imaging of Boulder, Colorado -

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“Virtual Colonoscopy (CTC) is as good as other colon cancer screening methods.”
The American Cancer Society, March 2008

Boulder, Colorado - Colon cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. This is a tragedy because colon cancer is almost 100% curable if found early enough. Regrettably, almost half of the people who should have a colonoscopy never get one. There are a lot of reasons, but it mostly has to do with not wanting to go through the procedure.


There are 2 basic options available for colon cancer screening. The first, Optical Colonoscopy has been around for over 30 years. It is invasive, expensive, requires IV sedation, and most people never get around to getting one. The newest screening option is a CTC, or “Virtual Colonoscopy”. It requires no needles, no sedation, is less expensive, and recent studies suggest that it might be superior to conventional colonoscopy for detecting clinically significant polyps and cancers.


Optical colonoscopies have been the supposed “Gold Standard” of colon screening until the recent studies came out comparing optical to virtual. Optical colonoscopy is known for its ability to immediately remove potential problem polyps. But, it is also known for high costs, need for sedation, and an invasive nature. OC can also miss problem polyps if they are hidden in twisting turns or folds of the colon. Then there is “THE PREP”. Probably the biggest reason 60% of Americans never get a colonoscopy is because of the nasty tasting and voluminous amounts of prep liquid that one needs to drink beforehand.


CTC, on the other hand, uses safe, non-invasive technology to create detailed 2 and 3 dimensional pictures of the entire colon and surrounding organs. A CTC takes only 20 minutes. There is a much more “friendly” prep. There is no sedation and you can immediately return to normal activities. Another benefit of the CTC is its ability to detect cancers outside the colon. CTC has found kidney, ovarian, lung cancers, lymphomas and aortic aneurysms. It has even discovered heart disease!

CTC vs. CT: IS IT Better?

One of the landmark studies comparing CTC and OC was authored by C. Daniel Johnson, MD, of the Mayo Clinic in AZ. It was the basis for the American Cancer Society’s endorsement of virtual colonoscopy. Also supportive is the 2003 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Here 1233 adults, without symptoms, underwent same day virtual and optical colonoscopies. The CTC was done first and then was actually used as a reference guide during the optical colonoscopy


CTC found 94% of the 1 cm polyps and 2 colon cancers. OC, or optical, found 88% of the 1 cm colon cancers. CTC also found 5 other cancers outside of the colon. Do the math; finding 7 cancers is better than finding 1.


OC can cost anywhere from $1200 to over $4800. Pretty much all insurances will cover it, and there may or may not be a co-pay. But, you miss a whole day of work and someone has to drive you home. A Virtual Colonoscopy costs $775, and you can drive yourself home, or to work, or go play golf right afterward. Most major insurances are now covering CTC at 100% with no co-pay. Seems like all the excuses are gone. The bottom line is that any colonoscopy is better than none. If you need a colonoscopy, choose one, go get it. Don’t be a statistic in a disease that is curable.

© 2012, All Rights Reserved by Front Range Preventive Imaging, August 2012

Posted August 2012 on