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Colonoscopy: The Funny Test We Love To Hate

Which is the medical test most dread by mid-lifers that also is a staple of a lot of comedians' repertoire? The colonoscopy, of course.

There is some good news on the serious side of the test which many a boomer has been known to avoid because -- aside from imagining the unimaginable being done to your body -- the preparation required to get your colon squeaky clean and ready for its closeup has pretty much remained unchanged since the Dark Ages. Until now.

There is now a non-invasive alternative to the traditional optical colonoscopy that skips all the nasty parts, including the gallon of industrial-strength laxative you're supposed to drink that shackles you to the bathroom for two days before, and the anesthesia that leaves you wiped out for two days after. The only problem is, while the alternative is a whole lot easier on the body, it's way tougher on the wallet because there is an excellent chance your health insurance -- including Medicare -- won't cover it.

The alternative, known as a virtual colonoscopy, or a computerized tomography (CT) colonoscopy, creates a three-dimensional view of the colon's interior and can detect about 90% of precancerous polyps that are 10 millimeters (0.4 inches) or larger. Most studies say that the virtual colonoscopy is just as effective, if not better, than the old camera-scope-up-the-behind way. The other thing the virtual colonoscopy does is eliminate patients' dread of the procedure, which means maybe they won't skip screenings. We'd point out that no screening equals no early detection.

Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society and author of "How We Do Harm," said eliminating the need for anesthesia by doing the colonoscopy virtually is a huge boon in itself. While maybe not the aspect of the procedure that most patients object to -- the prep and invasive nature of having a camera scope inserted generally steal that top billing -- not having to be knocked out "is a big advantage," Brawley said.

In a traditional optical colonoscopy, a camera scope is inserted while the patient is anesthetized. If polyps are spotted, they are generally removed and biopsied right on the spot, which Brawley said, may be the one advantage to the old method. "If the doctor sees something suspicious during a virtual colonoscopy, the patient will still need to be prepped and anesthetized to have the polyp removed." That happens about 15 percent of the time.

The other advantage of the virtual colonoscopy method is that you can hit the rewind button for a second look at a suspicious spot. In an optical colonoscopy, the scope is inserted and the doctor looks at the colon as the scope is pulled out. There is no pushing it back in for a second look.

For the record, not all locations are able to do the virtual view without the cleansing prep, and some insurance companies will pay for the virtual colonoscopy if it can be established that the anesthesia is a concern for the patient's health. But overall, the cleansing prep vanishes and nobody is paying.

Now exactly what will happen to all those colonoscopy joke-telling comics should the procedure actually catch on is a different matter. Lest they face extinction, here is a sampling of our favorite online colonoscopy joke finds:

Looking Out My Back Door video:

Some one-liners:

Dave Barry on his colonoscopy: