JUL 11, 2019 08:27 AM PDT

Will a Capsule Do Away With Colon Cancer Screening Prep?

WRITTEN BY: Julia Travers

While the official colon cancer screening guidelines say people with an average risk for colon cancer should start to get screened starting at age 50, only about 60 percent of the people who should be screened are actually getting the screening, according to Dr. Elizabeth Rajan, a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist. Rajan is currently studying a new kind of screening technology that may be easier or more appealing for patients to use.

The American Cancer Society’s estimates for the number of colon cancer cases in the U.S. in 2019 are:101,420 new cases of colon cancer. Colon cancer starts in the large intestine and usually affects older adults, but can happen to anyone at any age. It typically starts with benign bundles of cells called polyps inside the colon (large intestine), which can later change into cancer.

Rajan says that some people do not pursue screening for colon cancer because of the prep process that is required, which includes diet changes, laxatives and other steps. Rajan’s new screening method would eliminate these steps.

"It's an ingestible capsule that has the capability of scanning the lining of the colon without a bowel preparation," Rajan said. Patients have sensors and a recorder placed on their backs and then they swallow the special capsule.They also wear an electronic watch. The capsule then takes images of the colon as it moves through the digestive tract. “And that's it. Then they pack everything up and head to their normal activity," Rajan says. The capsule finishes its journey through the body within a couple of days.

colon illustration

The Mayo Clinic explains that a few ways to reduce your risk for colon cancer include drinking alcohol in moderation or not at all; eating a diverse group of vegetables, fruits and whole grains; not smoking; exercising most days; and keeping your weight at a healthy level. If you are trying to lose weight, try to do so gradually through the types of lifestyle choices listed above.

To learn more about the new capsule tech for colon cancer screening, check out the Mayo Clinic video below.


Article sources:

Mayo Clinic

American Cancer Society

About the Author
  • Julia Travers is a writer, artist and teacher. She frequently covers science, tech and conservation.
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