A virtual colonoscopy uses CT scanning to obtain images of the interior colon (the large intestine) to look for polyps or other growths. Polyps that form in the inner wall of the colon may turn into cancer. This is why the American Cancer Society advises that men and women begin screening for colon cancer at age 50.
If you have a family history of colon cancer or are at high risk for development, it may be recommended to screen earlier. This procedure is traditionally performed using an endoscope but is being exchanged in favor of a non-invasive technique called virtual colonoscopy.
(Learn the 5 Things Doctors Look for in a Colonoscopy)
In this process, a CT scanner takes multiple X-rays of the colon processed by a computer and compiles them together, creating 3D images of the colon and rectum. From there, your healthcare provider can review these images and determine the most effective plan for treatment.
In today’s blog, we’ll discuss how to prepare for your first colonoscopy scan and some things you can expect during the procedure.
Before the Virtual Colonoscopy
To capture the most accurate views of the colon’s lining, it’s necessary to clean out any traces of food or other materials. This involves following a restricted diet the day prior to your exam and taking medication, which will cause the colon to empty. This preparation is required regardless of whether you undergo an optical or CT colonoscopy.
Be sure to discuss any medicines you’re taking with your healthcare provider. Before the scan, you’ll need to have a bowel prep – requiring the emptying of the colon so the CT images will be clear.
You may need to change the time you take your regular medications so it doesn’t interfere with your bowel preparation. Talk to your healthcare provider about any medicines you’re taking. If you’re taking a blood thinner to treat blood clots or heart problems, do not stop taking it unless your doctor tells you so.
Here’s an example of how bowel prep is often done:
3 Days Before the Procedure
A good rule of thumb to follow is restricting foods that are difficult to digest. Food can make the organs difficult to view during your virtual colonoscopy. Some examples of these items include raw fruits and vegetables, popcorn, potato skins, whole grains (such as oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa or wheat bread), seeds and nuts.
During this time, you may have the option of digesting vegetables that are cooked or canned. Just be sure to double-check with your healthcare provider. You may be asked to further limit your diet 1-2 days before the procedure to clear liquids. This may include water, clear broth or an electrolyte solution.
1 Day Before the Procedure
During bowel prep, you’ll be directed to take laxatives in pill or liquid form to help empty your colon. From there, you’ll likely have several loose or liquid bowels in the following hours.
Be sure to follow your healthcare provider’s instructions carefully. If your colon isn’t empty, it becomes more difficult to view polyps or other problems inside the colon – resulting in having to repeat the procedure a second time.
Day of the Procedure
Just before the virtual colonoscopy, you may be given a type of liquid to drink known as contrast media (or contrast medication). This helps your colon show up more clearly for the X-rays. If you have had any reactions to contrast media in the past, be sure and tell your health provider before the procedure.
During the Virtual Colonoscopy
A virtual colonoscopy can be done wherever a CT scan is used. In most cases, it’s done in the radiology department of a hospital or medical center. But, because it’s becoming a more preferred method of detection, you can schedule a virtual colonoscopy through a healthcare provider like Advanced Body Scan of Tulsa.
Virtual colonoscopy is a non-invasive, accurate alternative to traditional colon cancer screening and only takes about 10 to 15 minutes. Opposed to an optical scope, virtual colonoscopy gives physicians the ability to view your colon in a “fly-through”simulation. They can stop, zoom and analyze specific areas of concern, take detailed instructions and more.
Here’s an example of what happens during the test:
- A thin tube is placed into the rectum, inflating your colon with air. You might feel a slight fullness.
- From there, a radiologist will place you face up on a table that slides into the CT scanner. This machine resembles a metal donut.
- The radiologist will leave the room and the CT scanner will be operated remotely. You’ll be able to hear and speak with staff during the procedure.
- The table will move into and through the scanner. (This is great news for anyone who suffers from claustrophobia.) During this time, you may hear some whirling and clicking noises.
- You may be asked to hold your breath at times, no longer than 10 seconds. The scan may need to be repeated while you lie face down.
* Note: This procedure overview will vary depending on the clarity of the images, health findings and between healthcare providers.
After the Virtual Colonoscopy
In most cases, you’ll be able to return home without any help – resuming your normal diet and activities. You likely won’t need medicine or special instructions. However, if you have any questions, it’s best to discuss them with the healthcare provider before you leave.
Taking Control of Your Health
With a virtual colonoscopy from Advanced Body Scan of Tulsa, you can identify early-stage polyps and begin treatment sooner, increasing your chance of survival. Our non-invasive, low-dose scanner detects the smallest abnormalities so you can act fast. To learn more about our virtual colonoscopy or other scans, reach out to our team today at (918) 879-6161.
What is the Doctor Looking For?
A colonoscopy can be intimidating, but a virtual scan doesn’t have to be. In this free guide, we explain the key differences between traditional and virtual screenings. We also share the five most common abnormalities doctor are looking for! Click below to download your free copy of the guide.