NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 5, 2007

Having a "virtual colonoscopy" -- an X-ray to look for signs of colon cancer -- may soon be an option for those who dread the traditional scope exam, according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin Medical School.

One benefit is the procedure's efficiency:

  • The X-rays can help sort out who really needs the full exam and removal of suspicious growths, called polyps.
  • In one study, only 8 percent of patients had to have follow-up traditional colonoscopies, which are done under sedation and carry a small risk of puncturing the bowel.
  • However, if any polyps need to be removed, the patient must then have a regular colonoscopy.

Another added benefit is cost:

  • A traditional colonoscopy at the Wisconsin hospital where research is being conducted is $3,300 and more if polyps are removed.
  • A virtual colonoscopy costs less than half that amount, at $1,186.

Most insurance companies don't currently cover virtual colonoscopy for screening but that could change if colon cancer screening guidelines endorse it.  Virtual screenings are already available at some hospitals and centers for people willing to pay for it.

Source: Stephanie Nano, "An X-ray virtual colonoscopy may be widely available soon," Fort Worth Star-Telegram, October 4, 2007.

For study abstract:


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