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New Ways to Diagnose Colon Cancer

New advances in colonoscopy promise faster and easier screenings.

Advances in Screening Techniques continued...

Because, however, not all insurance companies will pay for an anesthesiologist, experts say in the future more gastroenterologists will likely be trained in administering anesthesia, particularly in conjunction with a nurse anesthetist.

In addition to more generous use of anesthesia, advances in the instruments used during the test itself are also increasing the comfort level for patients. One such advance helps reduce the incidence of "looping" -- a complication that can make the exam difficult to complete.

In this instance the flexible tubing used to view the inside of the colon gets caught in the multiple internal curves, causing the scope to push against the colon allowing a "loop" to form. This can make it difficult to complete the test.

However, David Lieberman, MD, says several newly designed scopes are helping doctors avoid "looping" in a variety of clever ways.

"One innovation is called a variable stiffness instrument -- a scope that allows the doctor to stiffen the head of the scope, making it easier to get through the colon and complete the exam," says Lieberman, chief of gastroenterology at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland.

Additionally, Lieberman tells WebMD that other devices, including one called NeoGuide, use computer chips to remember the turn of the scope, which, he says, also reduces the likelihood of looping.

A new device uses balloon technology to push the scope through the colon in a kinder, gentler way.

"It's a dual balloon system with air between them, and it's actually the air pressure that gently advances the endoscope through the colon," says Lieberman, who adds that this too can reduce the possibility of looping.

However, he cautions that many devices are still considered experimental and not yet proven to work in large clinical trials.

"We are definitely heading in this direction, however, and it's all very promising," says Lieberman.

Preparing for Success

In order for a colonoscopy to be successful -- at least in terms of getting a clear visualization -- preparation must include emptying the bowels completely. Many doctors say that achieving this is tantamount to a quick, easy, and successful test.

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