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Virtual Colonoscopy (CT Colonography)

Good Samaritan offers CT Colonography Screening. This form of screening is also known as Virtual Colonoscopy, and uses low dose radiation CT scanning to obtain an interior view of the colon. Our providers then examine these images for colorectal cancer and precancerous polyps.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Each year, about 140,000 people are diagnosed and 50,000 people die from colorectal cancer. Most colorectal cancers begin as small polyps on the colon surface. Virtual colonoscopy can find these polyps while they are small and harmless and also identify cancers early when they are most treatable.

How accurate is Virtual Colonoscopy?

Virtual colonoscopy is comparably accurate to a standard colonoscopy for people at average risk for colorectal cancer. That is most people. Those at high risk for the disease due to a family history or other factors should have the standard colonoscopy.

Who should have a Virtual Colonoscopy?

The American Cancer Society (ACS) and other medical organizations recommend that those at average risk for colorectal cancer begin screening at 45. Virtual Colonoscopy is an ACS recommended screening exam to be done every five years for those at average risk. The virtual exam may also be an option for those at an increased risk who can't physically tolerate a colonoscopy.

What are the risks and benefits compared to traditional colonoscopy?

Virtual colonoscopy uses low radiation dose equal to about a year of radiation we all get from environmental sources. Long-term risk of low-dose radiation is unclear. However, the American Association of Physicists in Medicine considers risk from dose levels, such as those used in the virtual exam, to be very small.

In traditional colonoscopy a long tube (colonoscope) is maneuvered from the rectum to the beginning of the colon. There is a small risk of colon perforation from this — approximately 1 patient per 1,000 standard colonoscopies. In virtual colonoscopy, only a very small flexible tip is placed into the rectum to gently inflate the colon. The risk of perforation from the virtual colonoscopy is far lower.

Traditional colonoscopy is most often performed with sedation, which carries risk of allergic reaction and other side effects. Virtual colonoscopy does not require sedation. Most patients can go back to their daily activities. Unlike standard colonoscopy, the virtual exam can detect unsuspected medical problems outside the colon. While only 1 in 300 patients who get screening virtual colonoscopy will have colon cancer, up to 1 in 200 patients have been shown to have an unsuspected kidney, lung or lymph node cancer.

To learn more about Virtual Colonoscopy, please visit Colon Cancer Screening Resources | American College of Radiology (​. You can also view an informative brochure here.

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