Are there any alternatives? - - Columbia, South Carolina

Are there any alternatives?

Medical organizations give patients the option to use several different screening strategies, but almost every gastroenterologist will tell you that colonoscopy is the gold standard – it's the only test that actually prevents the development of cancer by removing the precancerous polyps.

Years ago doctor performed the old sigmoidoscopy test- that examines the final 40 percent of the colon: WITHOUT anesthesia!! So you're missing the examination of 60 percent of the colon, and it's not very pleasant for the patient. Why not go ahead and have the best test — a colonoscopy.

There has been a lot of talk about virtual colonoscopy.  This "non-invasive" test has a lot of appeal, but when you look at the facts, it is not ready for prime time.  Firstly, prep (the worst part of a colonoscopy) is even more stringent for the virtual test.  If any waste material (stool OR water) polyps can be missed, or worse, suspected but not there!  The test is expensive and has to be done every year, rather than every 10 years for colonoscopy.  Virtual colonoscopy misses many polyps and some cancers. And if the virtual procedure does find something, you still have to have another procedure to deal with the problem. This means you have to undergo yet another preparation. Nothing is superior to actually examining the walls of the colon. And you have the opportunity to fix what you find, right that minute. This often saves having to do other procedures later.

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