1. 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.

  2. The one cancer screening that works

    Over screening for cancer is nothing short of a national disaster.

    PSA tests and mammograms have created a generation of men and women battling the lifelong side effects of devastating treatments they didn't need because the cancers never would have hurt them in the first place.

    But there's one screening that's different -- a screening that can detect a deadly cancer and remove it at the same time.

    And if you're like most people, it's the very one you've been avoiding: the colonoscopy.

    Now, a landmark new study in the New England Journal of Medicine shows why you shouldn't be avoiding yours. In fact, these findings may have you calling your doctor today to schedule it -- because data on 2,602 patients tracked for 15 years finds that colonoscopies can slash your risk of dying of colon cancer by 53 percent.

    But despite the fact that colonoscopies save lives, only half of the people who should get scoped actually do.

    It's not hard to see why. A colonoscopy sounds about as pleasant as...well...a colonoscopy.

    In reality, it's not nearly as bad as you'd think.

    Thanks to the anesthesia, you won't feel a thing during the procedure itself. The worst part is actually the night before, when you'll have to take a preparation that'll empty your bowels.

    All I can say is, get a good book and stay close to a toilet.

    To make it easier on you, schedule your colonoscopy for first thing in the morning. Since you can't eat until the procedure is done, you won't spend the day hungry -- and you won't spend the day stressing over it, either.

    But that's not the only reason you want to be the early bird on this one: Several studies have shown that doctors detect more polyps early in the day than they do in the afternoon.

    Finally, some doctors offer a less-thorough version of the colonoscopy called the sigmoidoscopy. Others will try to get you to pay extra for a "virtual" colonoscopy.

    Both of them may be tempting. They both might sound a little more comfortable and a little less invasive.

    Don't fall for it. When it comes to colon screenings, nothing beats the real thing: A genuine colonoscopy by a competent doctor.

    If you're past 50 and haven't had one or are overdue for your next one, no more excuses. Pick up the phone and schedule yours today.

  3. Nothing beats the real thing

    Most people would rather talk about anything else -- but stay with me here, because there's a reason colonoscopies are tops when it comes to bottoms: Nothing else can touch them when it comes to cancer detection and prevention.
  4. The secret to colon cancer prevention

    There's a safe, painless and effective way to dramatically lower your risk for colon cancer.

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