The Value of Virtual

160,000 new cases of colon cancer will be diagnosed this year and 57,000 people will die from the disease.

Early detection would save many of those lives, but many people are squeamish about the necessary exam.

"There's fear of the procedure. There's denial it couldn't happen to me. There's privacy issues," said Dr. Robert Braun, gastroenterologist with Cotton-O'Neil Clinics.

The virtual colonoscopy could ease those fears. Instead of inserting a tube with a camera to check your colon, doctors use a CT scanner to get a picture of what's inside.

Dr. Braun said the virtual colonoscopy causes less discomfort, is quicker and requires no sedation, but he said it's still minimally invasive because doctors still need to inflate the bowels and it still involves the same prep work the night before to clear out the colon.

Dr. Braun said there's also concern the technology is still under development. He said one recent study showed virtual colonoscopy missed up to a third of all lesions.

Still, Dr. Braun said, some screening is better than none. With continued advancements he said virtual technology may one day be the answer to saving lives.

No Topeka hospitals offer the virtual colonoscopy yet. Dr. Braun said it requires a significant investment in equipment and many people might not do it because most insurance doesn't cover the procedure.

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