Colon cancer is both the second most pervasive cancer to attack humans and one of the most preventable. One of the sad reasons for its prevalence has little to do with genes, diet, or overall health. Instead, it is the social stigma of the colon and rectum and the associated test --the colonoscopy -- which drives this cancer to the top of the list of killers. As with many cancer types, colon and rectal cancer is best treated in the early stages. And, when done so, the success of treatment is exponentially greater than dealing with it later on. While the typical test, the colonoscopy, is reliable, safe, and relatively easy, it still requires temporary sedation of the patient and the insertion of a camera through the large intestines. While the patient is sleepy and relaxed due to the sedation, and the procedure is reliably painless, the very thought of the proceture has kept many away. Now, with the advent of amazing virtual imaging technology, a virtual colonoscopy can be performed in seconds without sedation, and without the insertion of a camera. While there are pros and cons to each -- namely that by using the old method, any growths can be removed by the colonoscope immediately -- this may be the answer for crossing the formally highest hurdle: simply getting people in the door for testing. The several sites below offer a look at this new technology. Teachers will hopefully value not only the descriptive sites, but also the link to a related lesson plan.
The first link leads to a segment from PBS' Newshour and offers a very good introduction to the topic. The link leads to your choice of the transcript, audio, or video of the interview conducted by Margaret Warner with Dr. Perry Pickhardt, radiologist at the University of Wisconsin -- Madison and co-director of a recent virtual colonoscopy study found in the New England Journal of Medicine and the object of a lot of buzz in the medical world. The second site leads to the University of Wisconsin's press release on the study's findings and the technology itself. The third site, while a bit technical for many readers, takes you to the New England Journal of Medicine website and the actual report produced by Dr. Pickhardt and his colleagues on their findings related to virtual colonoscopy. The fourth link leads the foremost cancer information center sponsored by the U.S. government, the National Cancer Institute and its web home for Colon and Rectal cancer. This is a great site to obtain both general and specific information related to the disease and the various treatments. The next link leads an exceptionally well produced series of reports by a Madison (Wisconsin) area television station, WISC. Its web home, channel3000.com, offers this site which gives a good report of virtual colonoscopy as well as many links to additional information. Finally, teachers, the last link leads back to PBS.org and a great lesson that asks students (grades 6-8) to think about this topic from its scientific point of view.