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Virtual Colonoscopy A Less Invasive Option For Colon Cancer Screening

BOSTON (CBS) – March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and doctors are urging people to get screened.

But many don't want to go through the uncomfortable procedure known as the colonoscopy.

However, there are less invasive options, including CT colonography, which is also known as the virtual colonoscopy.

"Virtual colonoscopy is a great test. It's a good data-supported test that performs the essential function of allowing people to get screened for an entirely preventable disease, which, as you know, is colon cancer," Dr. Michael Zalis of Massachusetts General Hospital told WBZ NewsRadio 1030 Wednesday.

For the traditional colonoscopy, people are asked to drink 4 liters of a preparation solution that helps to clear out the colon.

"Typically for virtual colonoscopy, you are required to drink less of that fluid," Dr. Zalis said.

The test does detect polyps and if they're found, then you would likely have to get a traditional colonoscopy.

"The data now is very strong that virtual colonoscopy is a very accurate test for detecting those things. If you provide a virtual colonoscopy to people, how many people subsequently need to go on to get an optical colonoscopy? It turns out it's only a very small fraction. Something around 12-to-15 percent of people of average risk who get a virtual colonoscopy would have to get an optical subsequently to have something removed," Dr. Zalis said.

"What that means is that about 80-to-85 percent of people who come to a virtual colonoscopy and get screened that way are done."

According to the Centers For Disease Control, about 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer a year and more than 50,000 people die from it.

But doctors say the disease is highly preventable, by getting screened beginning at age 50.

For more information, visit the CDC's website.

Dr. Zalis talks with WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Deb Lawler

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