Virtual colonoscopy differs from traditional colonoscopy in many ways. It is also inexpensive than the traditional procedure. The following article provides information about the test and its cost.
Colorectal cancer is a form of cancer which kills about 50,000 people every year. In fact, it is the second leading cause of deaths due to cancer. About 97,000 new cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed each year. The cancer develops over a long period of time and it manifests into a deadly form only after 10 to 20 years from the start of an abnormal cell growth.
Thus, if detected at an early stage, the spread of cancer can be easily prevented. In fact, about 90% of people suffering from this type of cancer can be treated completely, if the cancer is detected early. Virtual colonoscopy is a screening test for the detection of this type of cancer.
The Procedure Explained
Colonoscopy is a procedure in which the doctor views the inside of the rectum and colon (large intestine), using a device known as a colonoscope. Earlier, it was done by inserting a 5 foot probe inside the body. Apart from being a painful experience, it also takes a lot of time. The person undergoing this procedure had to be given anesthesia, and it required a hospital stay. However, these days a less invasive procedure called virtual colonoscopy is followed.
This procedure is also called computer tomography colonoscopy (CT colonoscopy). It makes use of a computer (computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging) and X-rays to generate a 3-D image of the colon and rectum. A radiologist captures hundreds of 3-D images of the insides of colon and rectum, and then studies them to detect any abnormal growth. The results of this procedure are available on the same day.
Before the procedure, one needs to prepare his/her colon for the screening. This includes getting rid of any fecal material inside the colon and rectum, as it may interfere with the clarity of images, thereby leading to inaccurate results. The preparation must begin 24 hour prior to the procedure, where the patient is given clear liquid diet along with laxatives and suppositories.
This rids the colon of any fecal matter. During the procedure, a tube is inserted in the rectum, through which carbon dioxide is released in the abdomen to make the colon bigger and easier to see. The procedure is completed within 15 – 20 minutes, and the patient is free to leave right after.
The procedure is relatively inexpensive. Traditional colonoscopy costs about $3,000, whereas this procedure costs only $400 – $800. However, one must note that the expenses of this procedure are not covered by any health insurance, whereas the traditional one is covered by insurance. Besides, the traditional procedure has to be repeated after 10 years, if the results are normal, whereas virtual procedure needs to be done every 3 years.
Also, if any abnormal growth is detected during the screening, one needs to go for another procedure to remove the polyps. However, in case of the traditional procedure, the growth is removed during the same procedure. These factors should be considered while taking into account the cost of this procedure.
If any abnormal growth is detected, the person is asked to go for traditional colonoscopy. High risk individuals with a history of polyps, colorectal cancer, or family history of cancer should go for traditional procedure only. Additionally, the virtual procedure cannot detect polyps that are less than 5 – 7 mm in size.
Nonetheless, this procedure can be convenient to people who do not wish to go for the traditional procedure. It can be an effective tool for regular screening of colorectal cancer. People who are above 50 years of age should get themselves screened for colorectal cancer on a regular basis. Early detection can prevent the cancer from taking a progressive form.