A traditional colonoscopy is an unpleasant procedure for any patient. Medical guidelines recommend that everyone should be screened annually beginning at age fifty. Unfortunately, many chose to postpone this vital test until symptoms force them to seek medical aid. Only 37% of current colorectal cancers are detected early enough before they metastasize. This is regrettable, because caught in their infancy, cancers of the colon are among the most curable and carry a high survival rate. Yet there will be 150,000 new colon cancer cases next year and a third of those will be fatal.
A “virtual” colonoscopy, as the name implies, is a screening of your colon without the unpleasant use of a rectal scope. This non-invasive, 3D look at your colon does not require sedation while a traditional colonoscopy does and so you may resume your normal activity or return to work immediately after your test is completed. There is only a single day of preparation required in advance.
Upon your arrival at a radiological imaging center on the day of your procedure you will be asked to change into a gown. You will then lie comfortably on a soft table as a technician introduces air into your colon for a more accurate scan. Again, you will simply glide through the large open ring of the scanner, being asked lie still and to hold your breath at appropriate times. There are no needles, no rectal scopes, no pain, and no need to have someone drive you wearily to your home.
A virtual colonoscopy is able to detect polyps a mere one centimeter or larger with 100% accuracy. These polyps are the ones most likely to be associated with early cancer. The results allow the physician a clear view of your colon without the fear and discomfort often associated with the traditional procedure. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among Americans, with a 90% cure rate if caught early. So why would anyone allow fear or embarrassment to prevent him or herself from becoming a mortality statistic?
A traditional colonoscopy typically costs in the range of $1,500 to $2,800, while a virtual colonoscopy currently costs about $800 to $1,700, depending upon geographical location and medical specialization, and usually doesn’t require a doctor’s order.