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Colon cancer screening just got much easier...but there's a BIG catch

If you’ve ever had a colonoscopy, you know that the prep is the worst part. You have to drink a liquid laxative. And the taste… Well. Words fail.

Humorist Dave Barry came pretty close to describing the flavor. He put it this way… “A mixture of goat spit and urinal cleanser, with just a hint of lemon.”

And you have to drink LITERS of it!

But all that is in the past now, according to the Mayo Clinic. Doctors there have developed a new laxative in pill form. Easy. Goodbye goat spit!

Unfortunately, there’s a catch. And it’s a HUGE catch.

So here’s fair warning… Don’t fall for it.

Reading the fine print

As I’ve mentioned before, there are two ways to screen for colon cancer. One is colonoscopy, which uses a camera probe. The other is CT colonography (CTC). Here’s how a Mayo Clinic press release describes this procedure… “A CT scan is used to provide three-dimensional imaging.”

This is also known as “virtual colonoscopy.” It’s touted as more appealing because it’s non-invasive.

Now… Here’s the catch. The new laxative pills can only be used for CTC.

Hmmm. Does that seem odd to you? Did Mayo Clinic researchers really make a laxative that’s precisely ideal for CTC, but not suitable for colonoscopy?

Apparently they did. And the solution to this “mystery” is pretty obvious.

The new laxative was developed by the Mayo Clinic Department of Radiology in Arizona. This is the same team that pioneered CTC. They conducted the first studies. They were also the first to offer it for routine care.

Clearly, the Mayo team would like to see this technology take the lead as the first choice in colon cancer screening.

On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with that. Business is business. New technologies overtake outmoded technologies all the time.

But in fact, there are four BIG things wrong here.

1) CTC may not be as accurate as colonoscopy at spotting smaller polyps. And spotting polyps is kind of the whole reason you’re there in the first place.

2) If doctors find a polyp with colonoscopy, in most cases they remove it during the procedure. But if a CTC scan finds a polyp, the patient has to return for a colonoscopy.

3) CTC is supposedly non-invasive. But before it begins, they pump air into your bowels. As an HSI member once told me, “I thought I was going to blow off the gurney.” She says she felt bloated for days.

4) This one is the deal-breaker… A CTC delivers an enormous single dose of radiation. It’s 400 times stronger than a chest x-ray.

The Mayo press release downplays or completely ignores these significant drawbacks. Meanwhile, the chair of the Radiology Department delivers this sales pitch regarding the new laxative…

“Our hope is that this will make people less anxious and more likely to get screened and will ultimately result in fewer deaths from colorectal cancer.”

Translation: Do it OUR way and lives will be saved.

Well… As long as the massive radiation dose doesn’t cause any cancers. (Fingers crossed!)

Here’s the bottom line. This radiological method is potentially very dangerous. Don’t let your doctor talk you into this procedure with FOUR major drawbacks.

And besides… How long can it be before laxative pills are available for colonoscopy prep? I would guess the know-how is already available. But don’t count on the Mayo radiation department to help out with that.

Sources:
“Four Pills Replace Liters of Laxative for Colonography at Mayo Clinic” Mayo Clinic press release, 8/23/12, newswise.com

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