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What is a traditional colonoscopy?

Traditional colonoscopy is a diagnostic and therapeutic procedure that allows the examination of the entire colon. An endoscope (a flexible tube) of approximately 4.5 feet long, equipped with a fiber optic camera, is inserted through the anus into the colon. This technique allows the doctor to visualise the colon and, if necessary, to collect tissue samples and remove lesions for pathology analysis.

The procedure takes approximately 30 minutes and requires approximately 1 to 2 hours for recovery from sedation or anaesthesia. Patients need to be accompanied as they will not be able to drive after this test. Generally, the patients will not be able to return to work the same day.

What is a virtual colonoscopy?

Virtual colonoscopy is an innovative and proven colon cancer screening tool that can identify quickly, reliably and non-invasively, precancerous and cancerous growths in the colon or rectum

By the use of a high resolution CT scan (computerised axial tomography), several high-definition 3D images of the interior lining of the large intestine (colon and rectum) are produced, providing a reliable non invasive alternative to the traditional colonoscopy.

“Primary CTC [virtual colonoscopy] and OC [traditional colonoscopy] screening strategies resulted in similar detection rates for advanced neoplasia, although the numbers of polypectomies and complications were considerably smaller in the CTC [virtual colonoscopy] group. These findings support the use of CTC [virtual colonoscopy] as a primary screening test before therapeutic OC [traditional colonoscopy].” Kim et al, le New England Journal of Medicine, Octobre 2007

Because of the invasive nature of traditional colonoscopy procedure, many patients are hesitant to undergo colorectal cancer screening. The virtual colonoscopy provides an interesting alternative.

Dr. Larry Stein, chief radiologist of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal says : « […] we hope that this innovative, reliable and less invasive option for colorectal cancer screening will encourage more people to get screened […] ».

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