When it comes to colon screenings, are all screening methods created equal? If they are all similar in their ability to diagnose colorectal disease, it would only make sense to choose the screening that is the least expensive. If they are not equal in their ability to detect abnormalities in the colon, it is important to be able to identify the most accurate and comprehensive test.
There are many different methods of colon screenings including colonoscopy, virtual colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, fecal occult blood test and double contrast barium enema. The colonoscopy has been considered the gold standard for colon screening because it is the only screening method that examines the entire length of the colon for polyps and lesions. It is the most invasive procedure and is the most costly. The question is this: is a colonoscopy worth the added cost or can other tests achieve the same result? In September, the Huffington Post published an article that argued the a virtual colonoscopy was superior to a colonoscopy. However, medical literature upholds that the colonoscopy is the recommended screening for all eligible patients. Here are five reasons why the colonoscopy is king.
Colonoscopies save lives
According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, colonoscopy with polyp removal decreases mortality from colon cancer by 53 percent. Colonoscopies prevent the development of cancer by removal of polyps that could become cancerous. It is the only screening that actually prevents the disease it is attempting to detect.
One and done
It is almost unanimous that the most unpleasant part of a colonoscopy is the bowel prep. Did you know that full bowel prep is also required for a virtual colonoscopy as well? If polyps are discovered in a virtual colonoscopy, your doctor will order an additional procedure…a colonoscopy! So why not just complete one bowel preparation, get a colonoscopy and be done with it? When a colonoscopy is the primary screening method, you can be assured that you will have a complete and thorough examination and that any suspicious polyp will be removed. Added procedures mean added cost, so one colonoscopy may be the least expensive option.
No radiation exposure in colonoscopies
A virtual colonoscopy exposes you to radiation, which has the potential to be harmful. Colonoscopy uses no radiation (Source: Huffington Post).
Colonoscopies can be done safely and comfortably
About seven percent of all patients who have a virtual colonoscopy experience abdominal pain because of the excess air that is required to view the bowel properly. One study found that colonoscopies had the highest satisfaction rate because patients were sedated, which resulted in less embarrassment, less pain and less anxiety about repeating the procedure.
Success rates are higher with colonoscopies
The New England Journal of Medicine found that virtual colonoscopy had a failure rate of 22 percent in discovery of polyps measuring 6 to 9 millimeters and 10 percent failure rate in discovery of polyps measuring 10 millimeters or greater. Virtual colonoscopy cannot detect flat polyps, which have a faster growth rate and are often associated with malignant development.
Talk to your doctor about what screening method is best for you. Because of its accuracy, safety, and capability of removing polyps and preventing colorectal cancer, the colonoscopy reigns supreme among colon screenings.