'PillCam' Allows Doctors to Inspect Esophagus

May thwart pre-cancerous condition

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WEDNESDAY, Dec. 01, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- It may be a tough pill to swallow for some, but it could also savelives. A miniature color video camera encased in a pill, just approvedby the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, allows doctors to diagnoseand evaluate diseases of the esophagus, at least one of which couldsignal cancer.

The "PillCam ESO" can aid in the diagnosis of Barrett's Esophagus, apre-cancerous condition, according to the device's manufacturer,InScope. The condition afflicts 5 percent to 15 percent of the roughly19 million Americans who have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

About 700,000 Americans have Barrett's Esophagus, which increases aperson's risk of developing esophageal cancer, InScope said in astatement.

Every year, millions of Americans undergo what's called anendoscopy, which allows doctors to inspect the esophagus using a long,flexible tube that's inserted into the mouth. The PillCam, its makersays, requires no sedation and had accuracy rates in clinical trialsthat were comparable to the more invasive endoscopy.

After the patient swallows a pill the size of a large vitamin, thecamera glides down the esophagus, taking some 2,600 pictures (about 14per second). After about 20 minutes, the doctor should have enoughimages transmitted to a small recording device to make a definitivediagnosis, InScope said.

To learn more about Barrett's Esophagus, visit the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse.

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