Health Watch -- Accurate Scans?

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A new kind of colon scanning may be less uncomfortable, but is it as accurate?

Colonoscopy, a scan in which a camera-tipped probe is inserted into the colon to look for polyps or other problems, is the best way to detect colon cancer. Some medical centers are now offering "virtual" colonoscopy, a less invasive procedure in which an image of the colon is created using a CT scan. Researchers report that the "virtual" method is accurate for detecting larger polyps, but it is less likely to detect smaller, flat polyps, and it 's more likely to provide false-positive results from residue in the colon. On the plus side the virtual screenings took less time than conventional colonoscopy, and doctors believe patients may be more willing to undergo virtual screenings.

These results are similar to results obtained by researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas in a report published earlier this year. UT Southwestern researchers found that virtual colonoscopy was more accurate at detecting larger polyps and less accurate for smaller tumors.

Dr. J. Steven Burdick, a UT Southwestern doctor who worked on this study, says that factors such as physician training and experience make a big difference in how accurate virtual colonoscopy is.

Technology is also improving rapidly. Now there's three-dimensional virtual colonoscopy, which produces a "fly-through" image that can create an image similar to that obtained when a miniature camera is passed through the colon in conventional colonoscopy.


Aug. 2004

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