Diagnostic imaging, oncology  

Computed tomographic colonoscopy can detect cancer outside of colon

28 July 2005

Oak Brook, Ill., USA. The investigation of the colon using computed tomography can detect cancers and other important conditions outside of the colon. Conventional colonoscopy only examines the inside of the colon and would therefore miss these.

Computed tomographic colonoscopy (CTC), also known as virtual colonoscopy, is a non-invasive screening method for colon cancer. Virtual colonoscopy uses a series of CT images to visually reconstruct the interior of the colon on a computer. Unlike standard colonoscopy,  which explores only the interior of the colon, virtual colonoscopy depicts the surrounding areas as well.

The study, reported in the August 2005 issue of Radiology, was headed by Dr Judy Yee, Chief of Radiology at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Associate Professor and Vice Chair of Radiology at University of California San Francisco School of Medicine.

"The chance of finding cancer outside the colon may be as significant as the chance of finding cancer inside the colon," said Judy Yee, M.D., Chief of Radiology at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and associate professor and Vice Chair of radiology at University of California San Francisco School of Medicine. "Using the same amount of radiation as a non-contrast CT scan of the abdomen/pelvis, you can do a virtual colonoscopy and screen the surrounding abdominal and pelvic area."

To evaluate the prevalence of extracolonic findings at virtual colonoscopy and to determine the cost of follow-up testing, Dr. Yee and colleagues performed CTC on 500 men, including 194 (39 percent) considered average risk and 306 (61 percent) at high risk for colon cancer. The mean age of the men was 62.5. Of the 500 patients in the study, 315 (63 percent) had extracolonic findings. Forty-five (9 percent) patients had clinically important extracolonic findings.

Findings deemed clinically important included large aneurysms, suspicious lesions and masses in the solid organs of the abdomen, lymphadenopathy, pulmonary nodules and gallbladder wall thickening. The mean additional cost per CTC exam to work up the important findings was $28.12.

"The fact that the additional cost was so low indicates that this procedure is potentially cost effective, not only in regards to the colonoscopy but for other conditions as well," Dr. Yee said.

Dr. Yee's research represents the longest follow-up (3.6 years) of patients after CTC and is one of the first to include average-risk patients among the study cohort. There was no significant difference between the numbers of clinically important findings in average-risk and high-risk patients.


Radiological Society of North America: www.rsna.org
Radiology: www.rsna.org/radiologyjnl
University of California San Francisco School of Medicine:  http://medschool.ucsf.edu/research/

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