Wednesday, March 20, 2013

New Screening Technology Promises To Detect Earlier Stages Of Colorectal Cancer With Greater Precision

Medical Advances: Cancer Screening



Inflatable Colon: Physical models like this internal view of the colon can encourage individuals
to book colonoscopies with their doctors. Now, one of the best cancer-screening methods promises even better results with 360-degree Google-like views of the colon; it will be like taking a walk inside.
Photo Credit: Tim Fraser
Source: NatPost

An innovative approach for cancer screening, which uses Google-like technology to give doctors a better more precise picture of the colon, has been developed at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. The purpose of such a medical device is to prevent the incidences of colorectal cancer. An article, by Sheryl Ubelacker, in The National Post explains some of the benefits of the technology:
The scope would not only allow doctors performing a colonoscopy to get the standard forward-looking view, but would also capture images of the sides of the large bowel, similar to the way Google Street View provides a 360-degree picture of a road and its buildings.The device is armed with a near-infrared light camera that takes thousands of pictures and uses blood vessels as landmarks to create a map of the colon.
“Unlike conventional colonoscopy, which only looks straight ahead, this new method can be likened to Google Street View, giving us a panoramic view of the colon and helping us identify the exact locations of suspicious growths or lesions,” says Dr. Qiyin Fang, Canada Research Chair in Biophotonics at McMaster University.
Like blood vessels in the skin and retina, the pattern of arteries and veins inside the colon are virtually unique to each person, said Dr. David Armstrong, a gastroenterologist at McMaster, who is part of the development team. “We’ll be able to see where they branch, where they join together, where there are different patterns of branching and joinings together, so we can construct what looks like a map of the colon,” Armstrong said Monday from Hamilton.
“And because it’s likely to be unique as we go around [inside the colon], we’ll be able to tell firstly how far the scope has gone in and then secondly is there a unique pattern, like a street pattern, that you can look at and say, ’OK, I know where about in the colon that is.”’
The views captured by the scope would be combined with pattern-recognition software to pinpoint certain locations on the map of a patient’s colon, a long, stretchy tube inside the abdomen that looks somewhat like an inverted “U.”
As a colorectal cancer patient I find this news both exciting and encouraging. The scope is in its early stages of development; it will take years of clinical trials, first on animals, then on humans, before it becomes approved for general use. That will likely take four or five years. Of course, the sooner the better.

Early detection and prevention is one of the keys to lowering the number of individuals who are diagnosed with later-stage cancers, and this technology holds much promise. As the article says,  "Last year, an estimated 23,300 Canadians were diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 9,200 died of the disease, says the Canadian Cancer Society, which announced a $194,000 grant Tuesday for testing the innovative imaging technology."

************************

You can read the rest of the article at [NatPost]