WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Each March, awareness is brought to the third leading cause of cancer deaths in men and women. Colorectal cancer is expected to kill more than 52,000 Americans this year.
Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month draws attention to a powerful defense against this cancer — screening. Eyewitness News spoke with a radiology specialist about one screening method that doesn’t seem to get the attention it deserves: virtual colonoscopy.
A CT colonography, also called a virtual colonoscopy, is unlike optical colonoscopies which require prep, sedation and time off from work. This virtual method is less invasive yet considered equally accurate.
“It’s a test that is also designed to detect the polyp which is the pre-cancerous lesion that you’re trying to detect before it becomes a colon cancer,” said Kevin Chang, MD, FSAR, Director of MRI, Boston Medical University.
Colon polyps, which are clumps of cells that form on the lining of the colon, can be harmless. But left to grow, some can become cancerous and often deadly if discovered in advanced stages.
“Pennsylvania in particular, it’s estimated that the rates of colorectal cancer to be about 6,000 Pennsylvania residents in 2021 with more than 2,000 dying from colon cancer,” Dr. Chang said.
Dr. Chang knows first-hand the benefits of virtual colonoscopies. He had an article published called, “When the Radiologist Becomes the Patient: My Colorectal Cancer Screening.” Last year at age 45 and with a family history of colon cancer, he underwent a virtual colonoscopy which detected something concerning.
“It was a benign polyp, right, but it was a big one. You know, I’m pretty sure I would have gotten a bowel obstruction at some point if I didn’t catch it at the time, I did,” said Dr. Chang.
That same day, a gastroenterologist removed the growth.
“It took three hours resecting this big polyp piece by piece by piece but because of him I avoided surgery which would have been anywhere else I think that’s what I would have ended up having a small bowel resection for this five-centimeter mass,” Dr. Chang said.
Dr. Chang urges you to stay up to date with your screenings and prevent a preventable tragedy.
“This is one that nobody should be diagnosed with or die from.”
In 2015, virtual colonoscopies were added by the United States Preventive Services Task Force to the list of grade “A” screening options. They’re covered by insurance.