Colon cancer kills about 50 thousand people every year. And preventing all those deaths depends on finding the cancer early. Colonoscopy is the gold standard in finding colon cancer. But millions ignore the recommendation to get that test by age 50. Either because they are uninsured, or because they think it's gross.
"Getting people over the hurdle of actually having something put in their rear end is really quite a job to do." says Dr. Hemant Roy, a gastroenterologist.
Scientists are excited about new technology that may encourage more people to get checked for colon cancer. With this painless, fiber optic thread which only needs to be inserted a few inches.
"Using this technology we can pick up very subtle changes in the cells," says Vadim Backman, Ph.D., biomedical engineer.
"By looking at the rectum, the end of the colon, we are able to predict who is going to have a polyp, with really quite remarkable accuracy," says Dr. Hemant Roy.
In this test, the light beam illuminates the end of the colon. Determining the potential for cancerous polyps elsewhere. That's because what causes cancer leads to a change in all of the colon's cells. And the light reflects those changes back into the computer. If it turns out you have cell changes that reflect a polyp, then you would need a Colonoscopy to find and remove it.
But the good news is most older Americans who are due for colon cancer screening could have this test, and avoid a Colonoscopy if this initial screening looks clear. Scientists also believe there are millions who would say okay to a light test, but would say "no way" if Colonoscopy were the only option. But don't ask your doctor for this test yet. It's still under study so it's not available yet. That's all for now.