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Virtual Colonoscopy Shows Promise

While not perfect, it could become key screening tool for cancer, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 1, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Virtual colonoscopies show significant promise as a screening method for colorectal cancer but there are still some problems that need to be resolved, according to new research.

A report in the Sept. 1 issue of Gastroenterology found, for example, that the results of these tests, also known as CT colonographies, are variable.

Currently, approved screening tests for colorectal cancer include barium enema, fecal occult blood test, flexible sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy. Each of these methods has advantages and disadvantages. A virtual colonoscopy is a new technology that's not widely available and isn't covered by health insurers.

"No colorectal cancer screening test is perfect. CT colonography is currently not the most accurate or convenient test, but may in the future be included in the mix of colorectal cancer screening options available to patient and physicians," Dr. Emmet B. Keeffe, president of the American Gastroenterological Association, said in a prepared statement.

"While the virtual aspect of the tests sounds appealing, it isn't a panacea. CT colonography is associated with discomfort and still requires rigorous preparation, often the most daunting challenge to compliance. Many practical issues still need to be addressed, including standardization of test performance, patient preparation and interpretation of test results before CT colonography can be recommended for routine clinical practice," Keeffe said.

"The shortage of radiologists in the country confounds the issue of training a sufficient supply of physicians able to deliver care to patients on a widespread and consistent basis," Keeffe added.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about colorectal cancer screening.

SOURCE: American Gastroenterological Association, news release, Sept. 1, 2004
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