What is a Virtual Colonoscopy?
Virtual colonoscopy is a fast, painless procedure that uses a CT scanner and computer software to create 3D images of the large intestine. The procedure is commonly performed to look for polyps, cancer, or other diseases. Polyps are small growths in the colon that may turn into colon cancer if they are not treated. A virtual colonoscopy is different from a traditional colonoscopy because it does not require you to be sedated, nor does it require the insertion of a long,
flexible tube into the colon.
Why should I have a Virtual Colonoscopy?
Cancer in the colon or rectum is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Screening tests let doctors find and remove polyps before they turn into cancer. Screening can also find colorectal cancer in early stages, when it is easier to cure. In general, people over the age of 50 should be screened every 10 years to check for polyps. People who have a history of polyps, a history of colon cancer in the family, or blood in the stool may need to be screened every five years beginning at age 40. Virtual Colonoscopy is a safe alternative from regular colonoscopy for people who are elderly, frail, ill, or for people who wish not to have a regular colonoscopy.
How do I prepare for a Virtual Colonoscopy?
Preparation for a virtual colonoscopy is the same as for a regular colonoscopy. Because your bowels need to be as clean and empty as possible before the exam, you will need to start a clear liquid diet at least 24-48 hours before the procedure so the radiologist can see the inside of your colon.
What is the exam like?
A small amount of carbon dioxide gas is administered into your large intestine so that the radiologist can better see the inside of your colon. You will lie on your back on a table that moves through the CT scanner. You may be asked to hold your breath for a short period and then turn over to repeat the procedure. A radiologist will analyze your results and send them to your primary care physician or gastroenterologist. The entire procedure will probably last less than 30 minutes, and you can return to normal activity immediately following the exam.
If any of the following apply to you, we encourage you to discuss a screening exam with your doctor.
- Someone in my close family has had colon cancer or colon polyps before.
- I am 45 or older.
- I would rather not get screened for colon cancer than have a regular colonoscopy.
- I do not want to be sedated or put to sleep for a colon cancer screening.
- I have had colon or rectal cancer in the past.
- I have inflammatory bowel disease.
- I have never had a colonoscopy before, even though I know it’s good to be screened.
- I eat a lot of foods that are high in fat like red meat and fast food.
- I have been unable to have a complete colonoscopy.
- Sometimes I don’t get enough exercise.
- I am worried about missing a day of work to have a screening test done.