1. Fast colonoscopies miss more precancerous cells

    Six minutes that can save your life

    Three minutes versus six minutes. It may not sound like much of a difference at all -- either way, it's just a few minutes. But when it comes to colonoscopy, the difference between three minutes and six minutes could be the difference between life and death.

    Six minutes is considered the gold standard for "withdrawal time," or the amount of time it takes to pull the scope from the colon. That's when the doc looks for precancerous cells and growths, and removes polyps.

    But some docs cut corners -- maybe they're overconfident, or maybe they just have lunch reservations -- and pull out faster, flying through the procedure in just three minutes.

    Well, you know what happens when you hurry, right? You miss things -- and docs who speed through the procedure in three minutes miss more than twice as many polyps and nearly double the amount of precancerous cells and adenomas in the colon as docs who take the full six minutes, according to new research.

    Now, I don't think you need a study to know you want a doctor willing to put a few extra minutes into your colon and locating precancerous cells.

    The problem, of course, is that most people are under anesthesia during a colonoscopy -- so you don't really know how much time your doc spent hunting for polyps.

    That means you have to do a little homework before choosing a doctor -- and don't be afraid to ask him some questions, like how much time he typically spends looking for polyps. Most doctors -- good ones anyway -- can tell you, probably down to the second.

    And along with choosing the right doctor, make sure you choose the right procedure -- a real colonoscopy instead of a virtual one. I know virtual procedures may sound better, but patients actually report more comfort and less pain during and after a real colonoscopy. Just as important, with virtual colonoscopy you're exposed to unnecessary radiation and if a polyp or growth is formed you will still need a regular colonoscopy anyway.

    There's a lot of debate over many cancer screenings these days and which ones may or may not be necessary. But there's not much debate over colonoscopy. It's one of those areas where both mainstream and holistic physicians agree: These precancerous cells screenings save lives, so be sure to get one yourself.

  2. Patients say real colonoscopy has less pain than virtual ones

    Patients prefer real colonoscopies to virtual ones

    When a patient hears the word "colonoscopy," he starts looking for the door -- and that view of his rear end fleeing the room is usually about as close as a doctor will get to examining his backside.

    People are just terrified by the procedure, and for no good reason. It's relatively painless and highly effective. It not only detects the growths that cause colon cancer, but also removes them.

    No growths, no cancer -- and that's why people who get regular colonoscopies simply don't die of the disease.

    But most patients don't even want to talk about it. It sounds painful... uncomfortable... and for some people, even a conversation about "butt health" can be a little embarrassing.

    Some doctors have been pushing the less invasive "virtual" colonoscopy because patients seem to think it's a lot more comfortable -- but a new study shows that's not the case.

    Researchers gave both procedures to 90 patients between the ages of 19 and 65 years old, and then asked them which one they preferred.

    Turns out, the real deal beat "virtual" colonoscopy in just about every measure. Patients say they had less anxiety, less pain, and even liked the exam rooms better when they got the real colonoscopies.

    That might sound a little counterintuitive, but remember that patients who get a real colonoscopy get sedated.

    Patients who get the virtual procedure do not.

    As a result, patients who get a real colonoscopy don't feel a thing (some even fall asleep). Patients who get a "virtual" one do -- and while the "virtual" name might make it sound like a procedure that takes place on a computer screen instead of in your body, that's not quite the case.

    There's no scope in a virtual colonoscopy (unless polyps are detected), but a thin tube is put into the rectum so air can be pumped in. This inflates the colon and makes it easier to see.

    It doesn't hurt. But patients say it's not the most comfortable thing in the world, either -- and that's reflected in the 69 percent of patients in the survey who said the real colonoscopy had less pain.

    In addition, a full 77 percent said they would choose the real colonoscopy over the virtual procedure in the future.

    In other words, the real procedure isn't nearly as bad as most people fear. But there are other reasons why I prefer the real deal to the virtual ones.

    First, virtual colonoscopy a relatively new technology and there are still question marks over its effectiveness.

    Second, and more importantly, it uses a CT scan -- and CT scans rely on radiation. It seems a little backwards to me to use cancer-causing radiation to detect and treat cancer... but then again, a lot of the cancer screenings and treatments out there are backwards.

    Third, if you have polyps or a suspicious-looking lesion, you'll need to get another regular colonoscopy to biopsy the lesion -- leading to the very procedure you were trying to avoid in the first place

    So skip the gimmicks, and along with "virtual" colonoscopies that means avoiding the less thorough (and cheaper) sigmoidoscopy. And definitely stay away from the up-and-coming procedure, the "laxative-free" colonoscopy -- because it's really just another version of the virtual colonoscopy.

    Real colonoscopies are proven, and they work -- and they represent one of the best examples of mainstream medicine getting it right.

    I don't see any reason to mess with success.

    PS: If you have diabetes, be sure to start screening earlier -- at 40 instead of 50. New research shows that diabetics in their 40s have the same risk of precancerous colon growths as non-diabetics in their 50s. It's as if the disease ages the colon by an entire decade.

  3. The one cancer screening that works

    Over screening for cancer is nothing short of a national disaster. But there's one screening that's different -- a screening that can detect a deadly cancer and remove it at the same time.

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