Colon and rectal cancer is the third most diagnosed cancer  in both women and men in the United States. Like many other types of cancers, preventative screenings are a vital way to identify the problem early for a more successful treatment plan. However, traditional colonoscopies can be uncomfortable and invasive, resulting in many patients choosing to skip essential screenings. Virtual colonoscopy exams are now a popular alternative to standard methods and help patients get the care they need to live a longer, healthier life.
A Virtual Colonoscopy Defined
The goal of a virtual colonoscopy procedure is to screen for any abnormalities or signs of cancer using a less invasive procedure. A virtual colonoscopy uses CT (computed tomography) technology to take a digital image of the inside of your digestive organs, large intestines and rectum. Hundreds of cross-sectional images are produced by the CT scanner and are combined to create a complete, detailed image. Doctors then view this image to look for abnormalities within the colon and rectum.
If polyps or other growths are found in these CT images, it could be a sign that cancer is present. A collection of tissue samples and further testing can confirm whether or not the abnormalities are cancerous. A virtual colonoscopy makes it possible to screen patients for these early signs of colon cancer quickly and in a less invasive way. The earlier the disease is detected, the better the chances of successfully treating the patient.
Who Is a Good Candidate for a Virtual Colonoscopy?
Many patients are reluctant to have a traditional colon and rectal examination because it can be a very uncomfortable experience. Even knowing that a colon exam is crucial to catching cancer early, patients still choose to forego the procedure until it’s too late. A virtual colonoscopy is a perfect alternative for patients who avoid having a traditional colonoscopy due to its invasive nature.
For some patients who have blood clotting issues, are on blood thinners or have other medical conditions that affect the blood, a virtual colonoscopy using CT scanning can prevent bleeding or other complications. It is generally safer and less invasive when compared to traditional methods.
Overall, a virtual colonoscopy is an excellent way to take control of your health with a preventative scan of the colon and rectum. It is important to note that traditional colonoscopies are still necessary for some patients, though. Individuals with a history of colon cancer, those who have chronic inflammatory disorders, and patients with acute diverticulitis should discuss their options with a medical professional. Before scheduling an exam at Preventative Diagnostic Center in Las Vegas, we’ll review your health and medical history to see if a virtual colonoscopy is the best option for you.
When Should You Get a Virtual Colonoscopy?
The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends screening for colon and rectal cancers starting at age 45 . If test results are normal, you should have a virtual colonoscopy done every five years after your initial examination, according to the ACS. While colonoscopies are typically used to identify colorectal cancer, they can also help spot other intestinal-related disorders. Because virtual colonoscopies are quick and less invasive, they are ideal for patients of all ages and varying needs.
What are the Benefits of a Virtual Colonoscopy?
The major benefits of having a virtual colonoscopy done rather than a traditional colonoscopy is that it’s quicker, less invasive and does not use anesthesia. A conventional colonoscopy uses a long tube that is inserted into the rectum and goes through the colon to identify abnormal areas. A virtual colonoscopy produces accurate images of the colon using a CT scanner. Most patients find that this is much more comfortable than a traditional exam.
Overall, the benefits of a virtual colonoscopy include:
Less invasive than traditional colonoscopy exam. Does not require anesthesia or pain medication.
Shorter recovery time (10-30 minutes)
Less risk of damaging the colon.
Takes less time than standard colonoscopy.
Good option for those who can’t have a regular colonoscopy due to bleeding or swelling issues.
Captures images of the large intestine that traditional methods may not reach.
Doesn’t require the patient to arrange for a ride to and from the procedure.
What doctors can view with a virtual colonoscopy is similar to traditional exam results. If you have a higher risk for colon cancer due to age, hereditary factors, obesity and physical inactivity, smoking, or other risk factors, a virtual colonoscopy is an effective way to detect growths in your colon. If abnormalities are found early, patients can significantly benefit from earlier treatment.
Are There Risks Associated with a Virtual Colonoscopy?
Virtual colonoscopies are safe for most individuals. However, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the procedure and any risks involved. During the CT scan, there is some exposure to a very minimal amount of radiation used to capture the images. However, advanced innovations in CT technology minimize radiation exposure with low dose machines. Preventative Diagnostic Center in Las Vegas uses a new innovated low-dose CT scanner from Siemens
Healthineers to provide a safe and comfortable experience when compared to other standard older scanners.
In comparison to traditional colonoscopy procedures, a virtual colonoscopy poses less of a risk of perforating the bowel. A conventional procedure relies on inserting instruments into the bowel during the exam, which can puncture weaker areas of the intestines. A virtual colonoscopy only involves a small tube inserted in the rectum that allows air to be introduced into the colon that inflates the colon in order to capture images externally, rather than using invasive instruments. Although there is a very slight chance this procedure could cause a small tear, it is rare.
Virtual Colonoscopy Exams at Preventative Diagnostic Center
Because of the less-invasive nature and accuracy of a virtual colonoscopy, many patients are choosing this option for a healthier life. The experienced professionals at Preventative Diagnostic Center in Las Vegas are ready to help you take control of your health with detailed CT scans that will catch issues earlier for you to have more successful treatment options available. To learn about our virtual colonoscopy scans and how it can help you, contact our team today!
Dr. John J. Pierce is the Medical Director at Preventative Diagnostic Center. He is Board-certified in Emergency Medicine as well as Board-certified by the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine. He received his medical training from Western University of Health Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific, in Pomona California. He also has a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. In addition to his regular practice, Dr. Pierce serves as a Tactical Physician with the Las Vegas SWAT team.