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Fort HealthCare Recommends Traditional, Over Virtual, Colonoscopy

Health, Wellness & You
Monday, February 7, 2011

Colon Cancer Awareness Month is approaching and Fort HealthCare encourages those age 50 and over to have a colonoscopy. Seven out of 10 people age 50 years or older have not had a colonoscopy, primarily due to fears. Information and education can help alleviate many of the unknowns associated with colonoscopies. There are a number of options available to patients, but often questions arise about the differences between virtual and traditional colonoscopies.

Virtual Colonoscopy
During a virtual screening, a CT scan is used to produce pictures of the colon and rectum. A computer then assembles these pictures into detailed images that can show polyps and other abnormalities. Because it is less invasive than standard colonoscopy and sedation is not needed, virtual colonoscopy may cause less discomfort and take less time to perform. As with standard colonoscopy, a thorough cleansing of the colon is necessary before this test. Whether virtual colonoscopy can reduce the number of deaths from colorectal cancer is not yet known.
While there are obvious advantages with the virtual method, a major fallback is that if polyps are found, the patient must still come in for a traditional colonoscopy to have them removed. Also, preparation for the procedure is more cumbersome, since the colon must be even more clear for the pictures to be accurate. Medicare does not cover the virtual colonoscopy. Virtual colonoscopies are not offered at Fort HealthCare.

Traditional Colonoscopy
In this test, the rectum and entire colon are examined using a thin, lighted instrument called a colonoscope. During a colonoscopy, precancerous and cancerous growths throughout the colon can be found and either removed or biopsied. A thorough cleansing of the colon is necessary before this test, and most patients receive some form of sedation.

Because of the sedation, patients have no memory of the procedure. During a traditional colonoscopy, polyps are easily removed so there is no secondary procedure needed. Since colon cancer can develop in as little as five years from the formation of a polyp, it is important to have polyps removed in a timely manner, possibly making the traditional option even more effective.
Patients are encouraged to speak with their doctor about the best procedure for them. Medical needs may vary based on personal history, “Screening colonoscopies are recommended for everyone, beginning at the age of 50. If no polyps are found, repeat exams are recommended every 10 years. If polyps are found the repeat interval is every three to five years depending on the size, number and microscopic appearance of the polyps removed,” says Fort HealthCare general surgeon Jonathon McLaughlin. He then adds, “If an immediate family member has had colon cancer, the age of a first colonoscopy should be at an age 10 years younger than the age at which the family member was diagnosed with cancer. Repeat exams in this situation are never more than five years apart, even when no polyps are found.”
As part of Fort HealthCare’s commitment to quality healthcare, new equipment for performing colonoscopies was installed at Fort Memorial Hospital. The Olympus Endoscopy equipment provides high-definition technology for a better picture and higher resolution. This means that surgeons are able to see more clearly any abnormalities that may exist in the colon. This technology places Fort HealthCare at the same level as big city hospitals using similar technology.
A colonoscopy is a quick, easy outpatient procedure that can be vital to a healthy, happy and long life. The process usually lasts only 30 minutes to one hour, and only occasionally causes a small degree of discomfort. Risks can include infection, perforation of the bowel, bleeding or an adverse reaction to medication; however, risks are extremely rare and are minimal when compared with those associated with colon cancer. Patients should discuss risks and benefits of a colonoscopy with their doctor, especially if there are questions or concerns.
To book an appointment, call Fort HealthCare Surgical Associates at (920) 563-7900 or the Lake Mills Clinic at (920) 648-7683.
More information, including a 45-minute seminar on colonoscopies, can be found at Fort HealthCare participates in most insurance plans. Many insurances offer coverage for most common, age specific screening tests, including colonoscopies. Please consult with your insurance provider if you have questions about coverage. Visit for more information.