WASHINGTON (AP) — A kinder, gentler approach to one of the most dreaded exams in medicine is on the way: U.S. regulators have cleared a bite-size camera to help screen patients for colon cancer.
The ingestible pill camera from Given Imaging is designed to help doctors spot polyps and other early signs of colon cancer. The Food and Drug Administration cleared the device Monday for patients who have had trouble with the cringe-inducing colonoscopy, which involves a tiny camera embedded in a four-foot long, flexible tube.
The Israeli company's technology uses a battery-powered camera to take high-speed photos as it slowly winds its way through the intestinal tract over eight hours. The images are transmitted to a recording device worn around the patient's waist.
Given's system is more than a decade old. In 2001, the company received FDA approval for a similar device.
At that time, analysts expected Given's approach to grow into a direct competitor to traditional colonoscopy. But company studies found that images taken by the mini-camera were not quite as clear as those from the in-office procedure. As a result, the company has pursued a more limited market for its device: patients who have trouble undergoing standard colonoscopies.
Given estimates that 750,000 U.S. patients are not able to complete colonoscopies each year, for anatomical reasons or because of previous surgery or various colon diseases.