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FDA offers alternative to colonoscopy for patients with medical necessity

Riddle Hospital March 17, 2014 General Wellness

male doctor and patient conferring over paperworkA colonoscopy isn’t everyone’s favorite appointment to put on the calendar, but it’s an important one. As the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, regular screenings are the most effective way to catch and treat colorectal cancer before it progresses.

Unfortunately, concerns about cost, insurance, or fear of pain and discomfort are causing too many adults to skip screenings altogether.

But thanks to a new approach recently approved by the FDA, there may be a gentler and cheaper alternative to the colonoscopy for patients who are unable to complete a colonoscopy for medical reasons: a pill. Regulators recently cleared PillCam, a bite-size camera to help screen patients with colonoscopies. Once swallowed, the pill takes pictures of its journey through the body, sending images to a device so that doctors can later review the photos for evidence of abnormal polyps.

“As of right now, the PillCam has only been approved for patients who struggle with traditional colonoscopies for medical reasons,” explains Samir Parikh, MD, colorectal surgeon at Riddle Hospital. “But, in the future, this could be an opportunity to attract patients who have avoided their colonoscopy for other reasons. In the meantime, it’s important for patients to discuss their concerns or fears about colonoscopies with their physician. There are alternative methods available.”

Though colonoscopies are the most effective screening method to detect and remove polyps, Dr. Parikh says other screenings can also detect colorectal polyps or cancer:

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy: During this procedure, the doctor is able to view the lower colon and find inflamed tissue, abnormal growths, and ulcers.
  • Virtual colonoscopy: A CAT scan rotates around the body to take photos of the colon and rectum. This procedure eliminates the invasiveness of traditional colonoscopies.
  • Double contrast barium enema: A special x-ray is used to find changes and abnormal growths in the colon.

No matter how you choose to do it, annual screenings are the most effective way to prevent colorectal cancer. Visit our website to make an appointment for your colonoscopy.