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'PillCam' Allows Doctors to Inspect Esophagus

May thwart pre-cancerous condition

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

The "PillCam ESO" can aid in the diagnosis of Barrett's Esophagus, a pre-cancerous condition, according to the device's manufacturer, InScope. The condition afflicts 5 percent to 15 percent of the roughly 19 million Americans who have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

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

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

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

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

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