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    New Ways to Diagnose Colon Cancer

    New advances in colonoscopy promise faster and easier screenings.

    Preparing for Success continued...

    "The single most important way to increase the success of a colonoscopy is to achieve a good prep. If it's not good, the procedure itself is longer and more difficult to perform," says Lieberman.

    In the past this entailed consuming up to a gallon or more of a powerful liquid laxative all within a couple of hours, a task that Christie says many patients found hard to accomplish.

    "It's generally not very palatable. Some patients find it very difficult to consume," says Christie.

    Now, however, advances are making the prep easier while helping to ensure the success of the screening itself.

    Among the preps is OsmoPrep, which offers much of the same bowel cleansing effects as the drink, using half the liquid and no bad taste. The down side: You have to take a lot of pills in a very short period of time.

    According to its manufacturer, Salix Pharmaceuticals, the recommended dosage is 32 tablets, divided into doses of four tablets every 15 minutes, each taken with 8 ounces of clear liquid, for a total of 2 quarts. Twenty of the pills are taken the night before the exam, and 12 the day of the test.

    "The hope for the future is a totally prepless exam and we are moving in that direction," says Lieberman.

    Indeed, Lieberman reports that European studies utilizing an MRI are coming close to achieving this goal.

    "With the MRI technology currently being studied in Europe you can theoretically subtract different densities [of material found in the colon] to differentiate between fecal matter and a colon abnormality," says Lieberman.

    If the European studies turn out well he estimates the prepless colonoscopy could be a reality within several years.

    The Virtual Test

    While looking towards the future is promising, there is also one futuristic method of colon screening that is available right now. It's called a "Virtual Colonoscopy" -- a noninvasive screening that uses X-ray beams to look inside the colon.

    Doctors say there is so little fuss and bother, the whole procedure is over in less than 10 minutes.

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