PillCam could have more patients choosing life-saving colonoscopy

Cameras in the colon. Pop a pill and get screened for colon cancer. It’s an alternative to colonoscopy doctors hope will bring more patients in for the life-saving test.

It’s just another day at the office. But as Brian Reed works, this new device works its way through his body.

Brian Reed, PillCam Colon patient: “I think it’s cool because it doesn’t restrict my day.”

Brian’s day started here at Loyola University Medical Center. Instead of undergoing a traditional colonoscopy, he chose an experimental screening tool – the PillCam Colon.

Dr Mukund Venu, Loyola Medicine gastroenterologist: “The first thing you’ll do is swallow the capsule. This one is about three centimeters long so it’s like a big vitamin pill. The contour is very smooth so it allows it to slide down a lot easier as well.”

Brian Reed: “I looked at it and said, ‘Boy, this looks kind of large.’ But as soon as I put it in, it just seemed to slide right down.”

Gastroenterologists use similar technology to help them see inside the esophagus and small intestine. But the colon is much larger – that’s why the video capsule is equipped with two cameras.

Dr Venu: “Allows us to get an almost 360 degree view of the colon as the pill tumbles through it.”

Brian Reed: “My grandfather had colon cancer, and it’s impacted our family. It’s been something that’s been top of mind, and I wanted to make sure I was doing my screening.”

Patients prep for PillCam the same way they do for a colonoscopy – clearing out their bowels. Once the capsule went down, Brian headed out of the hospital wearing a portable recording device to store the images. Typically, it takes about four hours for the device to pass through the body.

Dr Venu: “There is a risk that it can get stuck in the small intestinal tract or anywhere in the GI tract. It’s very rare for that to happen. A lot of times we’re able to flush it out with laxatives.”

Once Brian returned the recording device, Dr Mukund Venu scrolled through his images. But the PillCam isn’t designed to replace colonoscopy – the most effective screening tool to detect and help prevent colon cancer, yet so many who should be screened choose to skip the test.

Dr Venu: “There’s a lot of fear about sedation. There’s fear of the procedure itself and the discomfort associated with it. There are about 20 million Americans who are not getting screened for colon cancer, and that’s a number we’d like to see reduced.”

Loyola Medicine is the only center in Chicago planning to offer a clinical trial for the new device, which is made by Medtronic. They hope to enroll patients this summer. You can learn more by calling Loyola at (708) 216-0464.