Virtual colonoscopy shows promising results

A study by a group of Italian researchers shows that virtual colonoscopies that use computer tomography scans are almost as effective at detecting tumors and precancerous lesions as standard colonoscopies, which requires threading a camera through the colon. The study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests that the new procedure may offer an alternative to people who are too embarrassed or afraid to undergo a standard colonoscopy.

Colorectal cancer has the second highest overall cancer death rate. But it is easily treated if caught early. The best way to screen for colorectal cancer is through regular colonoscopies. U.S. health experts recommend people get regular colonoscopies beginning at age 50, or earlier if they have a family history or are showing signs of colorectal cancer, such as blood in the stool. But only about half of the people who should have the procedure actually have it done. Researchers say it is because the procedure is embarrassing, uncomfortable and may cause injury.

Both the standard and virtual colonoscopy require patients to first thoroughly cleanse their bowel. Doctors usually prescribe a laxative or recommend an over-the-counter product that is taken a day or two before the procedure. One of the most common laxatives used to cleanse the bowel is a product known as oral sodium phosphate, or OSP.

OSP is known by the prescription brand names Visicol and Osmo Prep, and OTC brands made by companies such as C.B. Fleet. Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a black box warning on the products after studies showed a link between OSPs and a serious kidney injury known as acute phosphate nephropathy. The condition can cause the kidneys to fail and some patients have had to rely on dialysis treatments.

Source: Montreal Gazette