A real alternative to life-saving colon cancer screening

Colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable cancers of all, but it usually presents no symptoms at all, which is why screening is so important. If you’re 50 or older, getting screened for colorectal cancer should be high on your list of priorities. Why? Because it saves lives.

When doctors prescribe it, most patients choose colonoscopy, because it’s the gold standard for screening and prevention, and it’s recommended every 10 years. Unfortunately though, whether it’s the inability to tolerate anesthesia or being squeamish about the long colonoscopy tube, most of us are not getting screened at all.

Here’s the good news. Now there’s a safe, effective, minimally invasive option called “virtual colonoscopy,” and UChicago Medicine Ingalls Memorial offers it.

The technical name for this minimally invasive alternative is called CT colonography. It combines non-invasive CT scan technology with sophisticated 3-D software to give radiologists a clear visual inside the colon and rectum. This screening is recommended every five years.

That clear view does involve a similar prep as colonoscopy. Both procedures require a clean colon, meaning only clear liquids and a laxative solution the day before. “During a virtual colonoscopy, a CT scan of the abdomen creates 3-D images to show polyps and other abnormalities inside the wall of the colon and rectum that can grow larger and develop into cancer if untreated,” explained Syam Reddy, MD, diagnostic radiologist with a body-imaging subspecialty on staff at Ingalls.

Less than 10 percent of virtual exams find a polyp, and those patients will need a traditional colonoscopy to have it removed or biopsied. Conveniently, Ingalls will help facilitate a same-day treatment with a gastroenterologist, which would preclude the need for a second prep.

If you’re getting close to 50, start the colorectal screening discussion at your next check-up. Talk to your doctor, call 708-915-COLO (2656), or go to Ingalls.org/COLO for more information.

For more information about clinical trials available through Ingalls Cancer Care, call 708-915-HOPE (4673).