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Reasons to Get Screened: Studies Show Virtual Colonoscopies Effective

virtual colonoscopyMadison, Wisconsin - A main tenet of the UW Carbone Cancer Center's commitment to outreach is informing the public that early detection is a key to treating cancer effectively.

Since CT colonography, commonly known as "virtual colonoscopy", became available as a method to detect colon cancer about ten years ago, UW Carbone Cancer Center member Perry Pickhardt has administered the test to thousands of patients.

Meanwhile, UW Health has become one of only a few hospitals nationwide to offer coverage for the procedure through insurance.

Learn more about the procedure

Pickhardt, who is also a professor and Chief of Gastrointestinal Imaging of the UW Department of Radiology, has co-authored two recent papers that could well increase the use of virtual colonoscopies as a detection tool.

The first, published in European Radiology, examined outcomes in patients who had initially screened negative for colorectal cancer via a virtual colonoscopy. Measuring colon cancer incidence in more than 1,000 patients spanning a five-year period after an initial virtual colonoscopy, the results of the study were promising. Pickhardt reports that of those patients who had an initial negative result, only one incident colon cancer presented after almost five years, comparing well to data from traditional colonoscopies.

"Patients can be assured that the two methods of detection are similar in effectiveness," he adds.

The value of patient satisfaction is the focus of the companion study of note. In it, Pickhardt and his colleagues surveyed virtual colonoscopy recipients and found that many chose the less invasive procedure over traditional colonoscopy.

"We know that early detection is so important," says Pickhardt, "but it's tough to get people to adhere to recommended guidelines when it comes to getting screened. Giving patients the option of a virtual colonoscopy could improve participation."

The survey also showed that almost a third of patients who had a virtual colonoscopy might not have otherwise undergone any testing if not given that as an option - and that number could be low.

"A lot of people say they plan to have a colonoscopy, but never follow up," Pickhardt explains. "Knowing that most patients who have experienced both prefer virtual colonoscopy is important information going forward."

Put together, the studies tell the story of a safe, comfortable method of colon cancer detection. To Pickhardt, all that's left is to make clear the availability of the procedure.

"Because the UW was one of the first centers in the world to regularly offer virtual colonoscopies, we've been able to advance the procedure as a healthy alternative," he says. "Along the way, we've saved a lot of lives, too. After nearly ten years of use, we now feel more than comfortable spreading the word on virtual colonoscopies to get more candidates to try it."


Date Published: 08/27/2012

News tag(s):  cancerperry j pickhardt

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