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Virtual Colonoscopy Shows Promise

Study Shows It's Less Invasive and Possibly More Effective Than Conventional Screening

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In fact, an analysis of 16 previous studies presented in October before the American College of Gastroenterology indicated that virtual colonoscopy missed 27% of colorectal lesions that were picked up by conventional colonoscopy.

"Based on that analysis, that means one in five patients had polyps missed with virtual colonoscopy that were picked up with conventional colonoscopy," says Aaron A. Link, MD, of the University of Michigan, who headed that analysis.

"It would be great if these new findings could be replicated because there are many times when virtual colonoscopy is very useful," Link tells WebMD. "It's certainly easier on the patient, and many aren't agreeable to conventional colonoscopy."

Only about 40% of Americans at risk for colon cancer -- the second largest cause of cancer-related death -- get screened because they say colonoscopy is unpleasant. The procedure is recommended for all people after age 50, and earlier for those with a family history of colon cancer or other bowel diseases. Guidelines recommend screening of adults who are at average risk because detection and removal of polyps has been shown to virtually eliminate the risk of colon cancer.

"The goal of screening with virtual colonoscopy is to increase the number of patients that would participate," says Choi.

Still, the newer virtual method can only screen the colon for the presence of polyps. If a polyp is detected, traditional colonoscopy or surgery is needed to remove it.

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