Also known as CT colonography - virtual colonoscopy (VC) is a state of the art CT based test for bowel cancer and its precursor, the benign polyp. VC is less invasive than existing tests such as colonoscopy or barium enema and is therefore very well tolerated.
For patients with symptoms, VC can accurately detect bowel pathology and also examine the surrounding organs to exclude disease elsewhere. For people over 45 years of age choosing VC for bowel screening, a very low dose of X-rays is used to exclude cancer or its precursor, or to accurately exclude abdominal aortic aneurysm. VC uses a very fast CT scanner and specialised software to produce images of the bowel previously only achieved by passing a colonoscope into the bowel whilst under sedation.
The Advantages of VC over other tests for bowel cancer include:
- No need for sedation
- Most patients have their test completed within 30 minutes
- Convenience. Patients can return to work immediately after the test
- Choice of fewer laxatives to prepare the bowel
- As well as screening the bowel, other organs can be checked at the same time. For example, a check for aortic aneurysm
- Excellent safety profile. Ultra-low doses of X-rays for asymptomatic people wanting a screening test
- Less risk of perforating the bowel than colonoscopy and no recorded deaths in over 50,000 patients worldwide
Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK. However, bowel cancer is entirely preventable by detecting and removing its precursor, the colon polyp. Even when cancer is found, the earlier it is detected the better the chance of survival. Over 90% of patients survive long term if cancer is found at its earliest stage.
If you are aged 40 years and have the following symptoms you may be at risk:
- Altered bowel habit
- Unexplained weight loss
- Bleeding from the rectum
- Abdominal pain
VC is available at 9 Harley Street, a dedicated imaging and diagnostic centre, part of the Phoenix Hospital Group. It provides the latest medical technology in a purpose designed building.