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Kaushik Patel, M.D.
Oncologist, Rush Copley Medical Group

A colonoscopy is a screening test for colon cancer. It can help detect polyps, ulcers, tumors and inflammation or bleeding in colon. Colon cancer is the second most deadly cancer in America, but is highly preventable if detected early. The American Cancer Society urges everyone over 50 to get screened.

In a conventional colonoscopy, an internal exam of the colon is performed using a colonoscope, a small camera attached to a flexible tube. The doctor will provide written instructions about how to prepare for colonoscopy. After administration of a sedative and pain reliever, the colonoscope is inserted through the rectum and advanced to the small bowel.

Those who would prefer a less-invasive option, may choose a virtual colonoscopy. Virtual colonoscopy uses a standard computed tomography (CT or CAT Scan) of the abdomen. A small rubber tube is inserted into the rectum to fill the colon with air. No sedation is required for a virtual colonoscopy. If polyps or other abnormalities are found, a patient may have to undergo a conventional colonoscopy. Virtual colonoscopy is not yet widely used due to insurance restrictions.

Consult with your physician to determine which form of screening inmost appropriate for you.