Doesn’t it seem like these days you can do lots of things virtually? We have modern developments like virtual assistants, virtual environments, and virtual machines, but does watching the latest virtual reality show really take discomfort and stress out of our lives?
Well, now there’s a virtual development that can: a virtual colonoscopy. No, unfortunately, it can’t be done with your smart phone or even from the comfort of your couch – yet. But if the thought of a 6-foot tube going “where no man has gone before” makes you skip this important cancer screening tool altogether for the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., you will be happy to know you may soon have a more comfortable alternative.
A virtual colonoscopy uses computerized tomographic (CT) technology to acquire a 3D image of the areas normally examined in a traditional colonoscopy. Although you must still endure the repeated trips to the bathroom to cleanse your bowels and a carbon dioxide gas enema must be administered using a small tip to inflate the colon, no long tube or sedation are required.
While a 2008 study demonstrated the virtual technique was just as effective as the traditional, experts were still unsure of its ability to detect problems in older patients, who typically have an increased number of polyps. However, in a new study led by a physician at the Mayo Clinic’s facility in Phoenix and published in the journal Radiology, it appears that those fears are now unfounded. The investigators determined that the virtual technique was just as effective for patients over age 65 as those aged 50-65.
With this additional validation, the hope is that the virtual technique will ultimately lead more people to getting screened, as it accommodates not only those who are overly anxious about the traditional procedure, but also those who have a bowel obstruction or use anti-coagulant drugs.
So talk to your doctor, because now you have no excuse to get screened!
Guest Editor: Dave Schlosser, Patient Navigator LLC