It's a test that can save lives, but a lot of people are afraid of getting it done, or uncomfortable about how the screening is performed. But there are new technologies that could calm people's fears and revolutionize colonoscopies.
It's enough to make some people break out in a cold sweat. But now, new improved colonoscopies can detect and remove pre-cancerous polyps before they turn deadly.
"The key is to find out if you have a predisposition to cancer," says George Triadafilopoulos, MD, Gastroenterologist at Stanford University School of Medicine.
A new LED camera fits through a regular colonoscopy catheter. Instead of just seeing what's ahead, it can also find hard to see polyps, hiding in folds.
"Third eye is a special device that allows us to examine the bowl by looking backwards, almost like having a rearview mirror on your bike or your car," explains Dr. Triadafilopoulos.
Traditional colonoscopies miss 12 to 24 percent of polyps. This FDA approved camera improves detection rates by 25 percent.
Even less-invasive tests are now being studied. One doesn't require laxative preparation or sedation. CT scans locate possible lesions in fecal matter. The scans are run through the lab where pre-cancerous problems can be spotted.
And some patients are now trying out an at-home option. The new DNA test locates abnormalities in the patients stool. In a recent study, the test detected 87 percent of colorectal cancers in curable stages.
"It's as easy as it comes; it's that easy," says Steven Geller, M.D., Centennial Medical Group in Elkridge, MD.
The new tests are helping to make colonoscopies less of a concern for patients.
Many cases of colon cancer have no symptoms. But if you do have abdominal pain, blood in your stool, diarrhea or weight loss for unknown reasons, call your doctor to schedule a colonoscopy.
THE FUTURE OF COLONOSCOPIES?
COLONOSCOPY OVERVIEW: A colonoscopy examines inside the colon and rectum using a long, lighted tube named a colonoscope in order to see if any polyps are present. Perforation of the large intestine or bleeding is a risk of the procedure, but a small one. While the idea of a colonoscopy can be uncomfortable and even frightening for many people, it is usually a very straightforward procedure. It is also necessary because colon cancer is the 3rd most common cancer and the 2nd leading cause of cancer death for both men and women. Treatment is most effective in the early stages and often polyps found by a colonoscopy can be removed before they turn into cancer. The older a person is, the higher their risk of colon cancer is too so everyone over the age of 50 should get a colonoscopy. (Source: www.ccalliance.org)
"THIRD EYE" CAMERA: The "third eye" is an improvement on traditional colonoscopy cameras because it's other tip comes through the catheter revealing a backward facing camera with an LED light, whereas the previous colonoscopy camera had only a forward facing camera. A recent study revealed that the new "third eye" camera detects 41% more pre-cancerous polyps for people who are at a high risk of colon cancer and 23% more in people who are at not at risk.
EXACT SCIENCES TEST: If approved by the FDA, the Exact Sciences test will be a new, non-invasive, in-home stool-based DNA (sDNA) screening test for the early detection of colorectal cancer. Results of two studies suggest that the test is highly accurate and significantly more sensitive than other non-invasive tests at detecting pre-cancerous tumors and early stage cancer. The test was developed by Exact Sciences and the Mayo Clinic. The Exact Sciences test detects altered DNA from pre-cancerous or cancerous polyps anywhere in the colon. All colon cancers start as polyps, and as polyps develop, they shed cells into the stool that contain altered DNA associated with both colorectal pre-cancer and cancer. If a patient's results are abnormal, a colonoscopy is required to confirm the results. (Source: Exact Sciences)
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