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Colorectal cancer

Newly Developed Camera-Pill Shows Promise for Detecting Cancer

Saturday, May 10, 2008 by: Katherine East
Tags: colorectal cancer, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) Would you comfortably swallow a small pill containing a camera to screen your oesophagus for early signs of cancer? Scientists at the University of Washington think you would. They claim that their new "camera in a pill" device could be the foundation for the future of the endoscope. They are currently testing this endoscope substitute, designed to take high-quality, colour pictures in confined spaces such as the oesophagus.

Such a device could help detect early warning signs of oesophageal cancer, which is usually preceded by a condition known as Barrett's oesophagus. This is where the lining of the oesophagus changes and is replaced by a type of tissue similar to that normally found in the intestine. The process is called intestinal metaplasia. In 5 10 % of these cases it can lead to life threatening oesophageal cancer.

Oesophageal cancer cases have more than tripled in the last 30 years, making it one of the fastest growing cancers in the United States. People who have Barrett's oesophagus are believed to be at least 30 times more likely than the average person to get oesophageal cancer. As with many cancers, it is often linked to a toxic lifestyle, in this case, smoking and drinking. Barrett's Oesophagus is also linked to severe acid reflux damage and scientists have been trying to explore ways in which the damaged areas can be reverted to normal so that cancer can be prevented. One way is through early detection.

The developers at the University of Washington claim that their pill-sized camera is different from the conventional endoscope used presently and more comfortable for the patient. It's also cheaper to use than current technology. The camera consists of just a single optical fiber for illumination and six fibers for collecting light, all encased in a pill.

Professor Eric Seibel is the lead author of the research on this device, at the University of Washington. He acted as the human volunteer in the first test of the camera-pill. He reported that the device was easy to swallow like a regular pill and the tether which is 1.4 millimeters wide, didn't bother him. The presently used endoscope has a 9 millimeter wide flexible cord and requires patient sedation for any scanning.

The thinner tether allows doctors to control more accurately what they view than with current endoscope devices because they can move it up and down along the region of interest. It records 15 colour images every second to produce high resolution pictures that will help doctors detect early signs of cancer.

The tethered-capsule endoscope is designed specifically for low-cost screening and because the device is so small and easy to use, it would do away with the need for anaesthesia and sedation as with traditional endoscopes. The researchers believe that this would further reduce the cost of the screening of patients. This is a big factor in helping avoid oesophageal cancer because internal scans are expensive; most people don't find out they have Barrett's Oesophagus before it has progressed to cancer, where the survival rate is less than 15 percent.

Professor Seibel reported that they are currently looking at commercialising the technology and hopes that they could eventually also deliver treatments through the device and apply it to other diseases. Their biggest challenge is to find a way to manufacture it cheaply so it's affordable for regular screening.

Results of its first use on a human, scanning for early signs of oesophageal cancer, will be reported in an upcoming issue of IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering.




About the author

Katherine Oosthuis is completing a Diploma in Nutritional Therapy. She researches and writes for a health and nutrition website Detox For Life . Her passion is to make research available to those who are looking to improve their well-being and revolutionise their health through better nutrition and alternative medicines.

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