is Colorectal Cancer?
should I be screened for colon cancer?
is a colonoscopy?
is "virtual colonoscopy"?
are the drawbacks of optical colonoscopy?
are the benefits of having a virtual colonoscopy?
do so few people undergo optical colonoscopy screening?
are the risk factors I should be aware of for colon cancer?
can I help prevent colon cancer?
What is colorectal cancer?
The colon is a part of the digestive system, which removes nutrients from
food and stores waste until it passes out of the body. The colon, or large
intestine, is a 6-foot long muscular tube running from the end of the
small intestine (the cecum) to the rectum.
As the body develops, cells of all types form and create tissues and organs.
When development is complete, this type of cell multiplication stops.
New cells are produced only as needed.
If cells continue to grow without normal controls, and acquire the ability
to invade other cells and tissue, a cancer develops. When this occurs
in the lining of the colon, it is called colorectal cancer. Colorectal
cancers most often begin as benign polyps that later develop into cancers.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in North
America. More Americans die from colon cancer each year than breast cancer
or AIDS. Over 50,000 patients die of the disease each year. Unfortunately
less than 50% of Americans are tested for colon cancer which is over 90%
curable when detected early, because the procedure is intrusive, time
consuming, and potentially risky. Among non-smokers, colorectal cancer
is the deadliest form of cancer.
Why should I be screened for colon cancer?
Colorectal cancer is preventable with timely and accurate screening
of the colon and subsequent removal of polyps that are of a certain type
and size. Medical research indicates it takes up to 10 years for a polyp
to grow to a size that results in the development of an invasive, deadly
cancer. Our technology allows us to accurately spot polyps years before
they become dangerous. Screening of average-risk individuals, 50 and over,
can reduce mortality rates of colon cancer. Both men and women are at
equal risk. Unfortunately, less than 50% of Americans are tested for colon
What is a colonoscopy?
A Colonoscopy lets the physician look inside a patient's colon (large
intestine), from the rectum up through the colon to the lower end of the
The physician inserts a long, flexible, lighted tube (a colonoscope or
endoscope) into the rectum and slowly guides it through the colon. The
scope transmits an image of the inside of the colon, so the physician
can carefully examine the lining of the colon. The scope also blows air
into your colon, which inflates the colon and helps the physician see
the colon wall. Most patients are given a mild sedative to keep them comfortable
and to help relax them during the exam.
A new non-invasive and accurate procedure is now available without the
discomfort associated with this type of exam. It's called Virtual Colonoscopy.
What is "virtual colonoscopy"?
Virtual colonoscopy (VC) may sound like something that belongs in the
space age, but this innovative procedure has been undergoing clinical
trials for approximately 10 years. Doctors and radiologists now have the
approval from the FDA to conduct these exams.
You undergo a 10-15 minute CAT scan after a 48-hour, easy preparation
period. There is a simple-to-follow diet of easily digestible foods, along
with a pleasant tasting drink to take during meals, which contains a contrasting
agent. During the CAT scan, a flexible rectal tube (diameter of your pinky
finger) is inserted only 2" into the rectum in order to distend the
colon with carbon dioxide for the CAT scan. No anesthesia is required,
and you only have the feeling of being bloated or having gas.
After the procedure is completed, the data from the CAT scan is then processed
into a 3-D image that enables the doctor to fly through the colon (as
if he were using an colonoscope) to look for any polyps. This procedure
has been clinically proven to be just as accurate as the optical test.
What are the drawbacks of optical colonoscopy?
Before Virtual Colonoscopy became a reality, optical colonoscopy was
the best exam for the screening and detection of polyps or colon cancer.
However, there are a few drawbacks to this method that VC has answered:
Only 70% of the colon is viewed optically because the colonoscopy does
not have the capability of turning around
There is a risk of perforating or damaging the colon walls
Sedation/anesthesia is necessary, causing a restriction of activity on
the day of the procedure
The colonoscope is inserted through the entire length of the colon (about
There is a rigorous and strict pre-exam preparation period where you undergo
Polyps that are smaller than 5mm in size are harder to detect behind folds
in the colon wall
The procedure is costly
What are the benefits of having a virtual colonoscopy?
VC is rapidly becoming the preferred method by both doctors and patients alike
now that it has been proven to be accurate.
There are numerous reasons and benefits for taking a virtual colonoscopy:
Procedure is non-invasive with minimal risk
Colon polyps, even small ones, if not detected and removed can become
Pre-exam preparation is easy to follow
No anesthesia is required, normal activity can be resumed immediately
The entire colon can be visualized, whereas the optical method is unable
to view behind folds
Quick examination period of only 15 minutes is required
Why do so few people undergo optical colonoscopy screening?
The vast majority of the people are unwilling to undergo an optical colonoscopy,
which is the only FDA approved method for screening most of the colon
for signs of colorectal cancer, because of the actual and perceived physical
discomfort, the risks associated with this invasive endoscopic procedure,
and the procedure's relatively high cost ($1,000-$2,000+). Viatronix
aims to change all this with its unique visualization system and organ-specific
Colon Module for "virtual colonoscopy."
What are the risk factors I should be aware of for colon
The incidence of polyps increases with age as seen by the fact that approximately
90% of individuals with colorectal cancer are over the age of 50. This
age category is the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population, and
statistically 25% of those over 50 will develop cancerous or pre-cancerous
Be aware of these risk factors:
Family history of colon cancer
A change in bowel habits
Detection of blood in the stool or rectal bleeding
Unexplained weight loss
Fatigue or anemia
How can I help prevent colon cancer?
Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables
Increasing your intake of high fiber foods
Avoiding excessive intake of fatty foods
Getting tested every 3-5 years for colon cancer
Restricting your intake of alcohol