Dr. Stuart Taylor of the University College London and colleagues are testing the combined use of positron emission tomography and computer tomography to provide images of the bowel lining that includes tissue uptake of blood sugar.
Cancerous cells tend to take up more blood sugar than normal tissue and these concentrations can provide evidence of an abnormality such as a malignant bowel polyp.
"If these polyps are detected non-invasively and without the use of bowel preparation and sedatives, investigation can be much easier on patients who would otherwise undergo colonoscopies," Taylor, the study leader, said in a statement.
The colonoscopy effectively detects abnormalities using a telescopic camera to examine the bowel, Taylor says, but it requires bowel preparation.
Taylor and colleagues had 56 patients with no bowel preparation undergo a 1-hour PET and CTC scan. Two weeks later, the same patients had colonoscopies.
The study, published in The Journal of Nuclear Medicine, found the PET and CTC scans detected all the important larger polyps found by the colonoscopy. In addition, the patients reported the combined scan was more comfortable than the colonoscopy.