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Scientists have developed a new pill that can act as non-invasive alternative to colonoscopies -- an effective way to screen for colon cancer -- and help identify growths called polyps.
The pill -- PillCam Colon 2 -- contains two miniature cameras on either end. After being ingested by the patient, the capsule travels through the digestive tract, captures images and wirelessly transmits them to a recorder the patient wears on a belt.
Like a colonoscopy, the system can help identify growths called polyps, said researchers from Loyola University in Chicago, US.
During a standard colonoscopy, a flexible tube (colonoscope) is inserted into the rectum and guided by a physician through the colon. A camera at the end of the colonoscope allows for visualisation of polyps.
However, some patients cannot tolerate the procedure, or may be at higher risk for sedation, the researchers said.
With the new system, the patient swallows the capsule with water. After the non-reusable capsule is excreted, it's flushed down the toilet. The patient returns the recorder to the physician's office. If a polyp is found, the patient arranges to undergo a colonoscopy to remove the growth.
"Early detection has been proven to save lives, and the video capsule system offers a convenient screening test for people who are unable to have a complete colonoscopy," Mukund Venu from Loyola University, said in a statement.
The US Food and Drug Administration approved the capsule system for patients whose anatomy of the colon makes it difficult to guide a colonoscope through the entire colon and for patients who have elevated risk of complications due to age or other reasons.