By Kay Quinn Healthbeat Reporter
St. Louis (KSDK) - Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, but if everyone over 50 had regular screening tests like colonoscopies, as many as 60 percent of all deaths could be prevented.
In this week's 8 Ways to Prevent Cancer segment, we take a look at a little-known alternative to that not-so-popular test.
Get a colonoscopy, and you'll have to undergo a bowel prep the night before a test that involves inserting a flexible, lighted tube inside the rectum to inspect the colon. But research now shows getting a CT scan of the colon can give doctors exactly the same images.
"It compares very favorably in the detection of polyps to routine standard colonoscopy," said Dr. David Gierada with the Siteman Cancer Center.
There are other advantages of a CT scan of the colon. There's a lower risk of bowel perforation than with the traditional colonoscopy.
"The CT approach does not require sedation and it's thought to be a lower risk of bowel perforation," said Dr. Gierada.
The drawbacks: in the end you may still need the standard test.
"If an abnormality is found one still has to go do a standard routine colonoscopy to remove the polyp or biopsy it," said Dr. Gierada.
Sometimes people who've had a colonoscopy will get a CT scan if the first test didn't give doctors the images they wanted. And others may just have a preference for one test over the other. Whatever screening you chose, there's one thing you can't avoid.
"Both procedures however do involve the bowel preparation the cleansing of the entire length of the bowel and the insertion of a tube into the rectum to perform the study," said Dr. Gierada.