CT colon could offer one-stop screening for cancer and osteoporosis

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CHICAGO—CT colonography (CTC), or virtual colonoscopy, has the potential to screen for two diseases at once—colorectal cancer and osteoporosis—both of which commonly affect adults over age 50, according to study results presented today at the 94th annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

“With CT colonography, in addition to screening for colorectal cancer, we were able to identify patients with osteoporosis,” said the study’s lead author Rizwan Aslam, MB, assistant clinical professor of radiology at the University of California, San Francisco.

Using CTC images, another software application can create 3D images of the spine, allowing bone mineral density to be measured. Low bone mineral density is usually associated with osteoporosis.

In the study, Aslam and colleagues at the San Francisco Veterans Administration Hospital evaluated the results of 35 patients who underwent CTC and bone mineral density testing with dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). Patients included 30 males and five females ranging in age from 54 to 79.

Alsam reported that study showed excellent agreement between the DEXA bone mineral density scores and the data generated through the CTC study.

“The bone density measurements obtained from CT colonography were comparable to the DEXA results,” Aslam said. “Both tests identified osteoporotic bones.”

Most physicians recommend that adults undergo CTC or conventional colonoscopy every seven to 10 years beginning at age 50.

“CT colonography isn't a replacement for DEXA testing, but it could be a way to screen more people for osteoporosis,” Aslam said. “When an individual undergoes CT colonography, we can also obtain a bone density measurement with no additional radiation and at minimal cost.”

According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, 10 million Americans over age 50 have osteoporosis. Approximately 34 million Americans are at risk due to low bone mass. Detecting osteoporosis early provides for early intervention and treatment.