The threat of Colon Cancer is one that is well publicised and is in fact one of the most common forms of cancer. Around 40,000 new cases are diagnosed in the UK each year - that’s 1 in every 20 people who will develop this form of cancer in their lifetime. Almost 9/10 people who are diagnosed with bowel cancer are over 60 years of age. Due to this, it is recommended that anyone from the age of 55+ is routinely checked.
The process of screening for bowel cancer is uncharacteristically important in the prevention and treatment of this disease, however it is a procedure that many people both dread and fear. It involves a process in which the bowel is cleansed prior to the invasive procedure of having a scope inserted into the bowel. So, not only do people carry the worry of discovering something of concern, but also feelings of discomfort and embarrassment are common amongst patients. With this in mind, the ‘Capsule Endoscopy’ technology was developed.
‘Capsule Endoscopy’ is a procedure that uses a tiny wireless camera which sits inside a capsule/pill and is then swallowed. This then takes pictures of your digestive tract and feeds them back to a receptor.” This technology has been a useful procedure for a number of years now, however it has a number of limitations:
- It can produce uninterpretable images due to the rapid transit of the capsule, or retained ‘bowel matter’.
- On some occasions, bowel transit can be slow therefore only a certain area is pictured before the battery life runs out.
- It can be difficult to ascertain exactly where abnormalities are from the images.
- The capsule can get stuck in smaller areas of the intestine, which requires surgical removal.
- Reviewing tens of thousands of photographs is very time consuming.
A new development called ‘Check Cap’ is now being explored and is designed to combat the limitations of ‘Capsule Endoscopy’. “Check-Cap is a clinical stage medical diagnostics company leading the development of the first ingestible imaging capsule that utilizes low-dose X-rays for CRC screening. Check-Cap uses a disposable capsule that travels naturally through the digestive tract and is excreted without any intervention. X-ray technology embedded in the capsule provides a 3-D angular scan of the colon that, unlike the optics used in a scope, can see through the contents of the bowels. As the capsule passes through the colon, an external data receiver collects the images and analyses them as part of the cancer screening process.”
This procedure provides purely diagnostic/screening benefits and does not support a treatment purpose. If any irregularities such as polyps or tumours were found then a traditional colonoscopy would be necessary in order to remove any diseased tissue. Where it really differentiates, is that it produces a 3D scan as appose to 2D images, therefore identifying where potential problems may be becomes much simpler. It also does not require the ‘bowel cleanse’ prior to consumption because the pill can transmit through ‘bowel matter’ thus offering patients a much simpler and stress free experience.
The product is still in its early stages and therefore is not currently available for sale or clinical use. Currently it is mid-way through clinical trials in Europe and as part of the FDA approval process, a similar program is due to start in the USA very soon.
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(Images taken from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net)