Deciding if a Virtual Colonoscopy Is Right for You

Posted on: 2 February 2016

As you approach the age of 50 and begin to think about your health and well-being, you may find yourself considering the prospect of getting your first colonoscopy. While many people assume that all colonoscopies are the same, this is not necessarily the case. Many physicians do still opt to use the optical (or standard) colonoscopy. However, virtual colonoscopies are also an option for the same colon cancer screening exam you need at age 50. Get to know more about virtual colonoscopies so that you can determine whether or not this is a viable option for you and your needs.

What Is a Virtual Colonoscopy?

A virtual colonoscopy is a way of examining the colon that uses a low-dose X-ray technique. This form of body scan is known as a computerized tomography (CT) exam.

Rather than the basic images that a standard X-ray can provide, a CT scan pieces together the images from several low-dose X-rays to form a more comprehensive view of the structure being scanned. In the case of a scan of the colon, it can give images of the shape and structure of the colon and can indicate any areas of worry including colon polyps.

To make this scan effective, carbon dioxide must be blown into the colon through the entrance of the rectum. This helps to expand the colon and clears the scan field to get a more accurate picture.

What Are the Benefits of a Virtual Colonoscopy Over a Standard One?

Choosing a virtual colonoscopy rather than a standard one does have some decided advantages. It is much less invasive than a standard colonoscopy in which a colonoscope is inserted through the rectum all the way into the colon. The potential discomfort after the procedure is much reduced for this reason.

Virtual colonoscopies can also be helpful for patients who cannot handle a standard procedure for any reason. For example, a person who is allergic to anesthesia or whose body is too weak for anesthesia would be a good candidate to receive a virtual colonoscopy that does not require anesthesia.

What Are the Potential Drawbacks?

While virtual colonoscopies sound like the perfect colon cancer screening at first glance, there can be some disadvantages or drawbacks. The biggest issue with a virtual colonoscopy is that if worrisome spots or polyps are discovered in the colon, you will need a second procedure to have them removed and tested for cancer cells.

In essence, this would mean that you still will need a standard colonoscopy in addition to the virtual one if growths are found. On top of that, very small polyps may not be detectable using the CT scan technique. And, of course, there is the issue of whether or not an insurance company will cover your virtual colonoscopy if you could need another colonoscopy shortly thereafter.

Now that you know more about the virtual colonoscopy, you can decide whether this is the right colon cancer screening for you. Once you make this decision, you can schedule your colon cancer screening appointment and take the initiative to take care of your colon health. For more information about your options, contact companies like Northwest Gastroenterology Associates.