One of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in New Zealand is bowel cancer. In fact, we have one of the highest percentages of bowel cancer in the world.
Bowel cancer can occur at any age but is more common after the age of 50 years. Risk factors include a strong family history, a diet high in fat and low in fruit and vegetables, lack of exercise, smoking and inflammatory bowel disease.
Screening with tests such as a CT colonography means bowel cancers can be detected early before symptoms even develop, significantly improving outcomes for many patients.
CT colonography is a CT (computerised tomography) scan of the abdomen, which produces a series of low dose, cross-sectional x-ray images. These images are then processed by powerful computer programs into 3D pictures showing bones, blood vessels and soft tissues such as the large bowel.
At Pacific Radiology Canterbury, we are fortunate to have some of the most experienced CT colonography radiologists (doctors who read medical imaging) anywhere in New Zealand or Australia. “Pacific Radiology uses some of the finest CT scanning equipment and software accessible today,” Managing Radiologist for Canterbury, Dr Jeremy Sharr says. “We are constantly striving to improve our service so that the patient is getting the best medical imaging available.”
CT colonography is a highly accurate examination which can detect clinically significant growths or polyps in the bowel that may become cancerous. It is a safe, non-invasive and sedation-free alternative to a colonoscopy. No scopes are required. During the procedure only a small tube is placed in the bottom through which some air is used to help distend the bowel for clearer images.
The day before the scan patients are required to take some preparation for the examination to clear out the bowel. On the day of the procedure, patients have a small drink of contrast to help improve the visibility of the bowel on the scan.
Symptoms of bowel cancer are often non-specific but can include a continual change in bowel habits, the presence of blood in the stool, abdominal discomfort or pain, unexplained weight loss and bloating. Sometimes there are no symptoms. Early detection is a key defence against bowel cancer and screening tests are recommended for those at risk.
Please contact your doctor if you have any concerns about your health.