A colonoscopy is a method of screening for cancer in your colon, also known as the large intestine or large bowel. Premier Diagnostic Imaging provides virtual colonoscopy, also known as CT colonography. This procedure uses a CT scanner and virtual reality software to look inside the colon. Virtual colonoscopies are approved by the American Cancer Society as a colorectal cancer screening option and for the detection of abnormal growths. Virtual colonoscopies are preferable to traditional colonoscopies. The procedure time is shorter (less than 1 hour), and you can resume daily activities as soon as you leave the facility. Also, since this test is performed using a CT machine, other organs are visualized in that area, such as the liver, pancreas, spleen, and kidneys.
When to Get a Colonoscopy
The American Cancer Society recommends that people of average risk get a virtual colonoscopy every five years beginning at age 45 to screen for colon cancer. If you have a higher risk of colon cancer, your doctor may ask you to come in for screenings more frequently.
If you’re having intestinal problems, your doctor may recommend that you get a colonoscopy to help diagnose the problem. If you have abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, chronic constipation, chronic diarrhea, or other persistent GI problems, talk to your doctor.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among men and women combined in the United States. Potentially, colorectal cancer can be prevented if colon polyps are discovered and removed early. In fact, it’s estimated that 60% of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented with screening. 1 in 20 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer during their lifetimes.
What Is a Virtual Colonoscopy?
A virtual colonoscopy is a less invasive alternative to the traditional version. Rather than using a scope internally, a technologist can take a CT scan of your pelvis and abdomen. Your radiologist can look at the scans to see if there are any polyps or abnormalities anywhere in your abdomen. Most patients report that the virtual scan is more comfortable than a conventional colonoscopy procedure.
If your radiologist does see something that looks like it might be of concern, then your doctor will refer you for a traditional colonoscopy, in which polyps can be removed during the exam. The virtual method has the benefit of checking for problems in your entire abdominal area and determining whether a traditional colonoscopy is necessary.
Virtual colonoscopy is covered by most insurance plans and is one of many diagnostic imaging services offered by Premier Diagnostic Imaging.
What Is a Traditional Colonoscopy?
During a conventional colonoscopy, doctors put patients into a sedated state. Next, the doctor examines the patient’s colon and bowel with a small camera attached to a flexible tube inserted through the anus. The doctor then moves the camera through the colon and lower intestine, looking for polyps and any change in tissue.
If they find anything that looks suspicious, they can remove the polyp during the exam. Polyp removal is a crucial step to preventing colon cancer from developing or spreading. After a traditional colonoscopy, it is recommended that patients refrain from driving, strenuous activity and drinking alcohol for 24 hours.
The invasive nature of traditional colonoscopy is what leads many patients to choose virtual colonoscopy as their preferred method of colon screening. There is also significantly less recovery time needed for virtual colonoscopies, which means that you won’t need to stray far from your normal routine.
How to Prepare
Virtual colonoscopy prep is similar to preparation for a conventional colonoscopy. You must have a clean colon for either procedure to get a reliable scan. The day before the test, you’ll need to switch to a liquid diet only. You will also need to drink a special low-contrast liquid to highlight stool within the colon, making it easier for your radiologist to discover polyps or other abnormalities. Following the prep instructions is essential for a successful exam. Click here for complete prep instructions. (PDF)
When you go in for the test, a technician will have you lie on your side on a narrow exam table. The actual procedure will begin by having a small tube placed in the rectum to inflate the colon with carbon dioxide, which is easily absorbed by the human body. The air will help expand and smooth out the colon to make any abnormalities easier to spot. The air may make your belly feel full, but it won’t cause you any pain.
The technician will then slide the table into a large donut-shaped machine, a CT scanner. The technician will leave the room to run the scan, but they will be able to see, hear, and talk to you the whole time. The scan should take between ten and twenty minutes. The technician may ask you to turn or hold your breath at various points.
After the exam, you may experience some bloating and gas while you expel what was in your intestines. You can go back to your normal diet and activity levels as soon as you feel like it.
Getting Your Results
After your exam, your radiologist will review and interpret your virtual colonoscopy. Test results are available within 48 hours for you to view on our Patient Portal. We also send test results directly to your physician. From there, your doctor will follow up with you with the test results and recommendations regarding your colon health.
If you test is negative, your doctor may ask you to come in 5 years for your next colonoscopy. This is recommended for people of average colon cancer risk over age 45.
If your test is positive, it means your doctor found a polyp or some unusual tissue. If this is the case, then you will need to get a traditional colonoscopy to remove the polyp.
Schedule a Colonoscopy
Next time you’re due for a colonoscopy, ask your doctor about a virtual colonoscopy. Virtual colonoscopy is less invasive than a traditional colonoscopy and requires less recovery time.
If it’s time to set up an appointment for your next colonoscopy, see us at Premier Diagnostic Imaging. We prioritize your experience to offer you convenience and state-of-the-art imaging at a low cost.