New Camera Technology Improves Colonoscopy Screening Results

It's the one test nearly every one dreads, but one that could save your life: Getting a colorectal screening. A colonoscopy is a procedure that is used to see inside the colon and rectum. The procedure is done by inserting a thin, flexible, lighted tube (colonoscope), which has a small camera mounted on it, into the colon. The camera then transmits a video image from inside the colon to a computer screen, allowing the doctor to examine the colon, looking for any early signs of colorectal cancer and removing any polyps (abnormal growths in the colon) and testing them for cancer.

Now, new camera technology is making it possible for physicians to get a better look at small polyps and other lesions that might be missed with the current colonoscope alone. Third Eye Retroscope (TER), which uses a disposable mounted imaging device that is inserted through the instrument channel of a standard colonoscope, allows physicians to inspect the folds and turns in the colon and spot any polyps that may be hiding there as the scope is being withdrawn.

Third Eye Retroscope is proving to be so accurate, in one study it detected 13.2 percent more polyps than regular colonoscopy alone. And another study showed an impressive 16 percent improvement in detecting all adenomas (precancerous polyps) in the colon.

Another improvement over standard colonoscopy in finding polyps that could change into cancer is high-definition colonoscopy, which uses both a high-definition video chip and HD monitors that increase the resolution of the image, making it easier for physicians to find and remove polyps. In a study conducted by researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Florida, the rate of detection of adenomas using the HD colonoscopy was 29 percent versus 24 percent using standard colonoscopies.

When to Get Screened

Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S., but the disease is highly curable when it's caught at its earliest stages. According to the American Cancer Society colon screening should begin at age 50. And while age is the number-one risk factor for developing colon cancer, African-Americans appear to be at a higher risk for developing the disease at an earlier age. New guidelines issued by the American College of Gastroenterology call for testing of African-Americans to begin at age 45 instead of 50. You should also get screened earlier if you have a family history of  colon cancer or any other kind of cancer.

Check with your doctor to find out when you should begin screenings for colon cancer.