Now, there's a technology that's so advanced, its space aged.
That's no exaggeration, the guy who invented this device formerly worked at NASA.
It's a microscope the size of a grain of rice.
It can allow doctors to diagnosis an abnormal lump in the intestine or esophagus, and treat it right then and there.
If a microscope brings this image to mind, you might be surprised that the silver tip of this fiber optic wire does exactly the same thing.
It magnifies what it sees by a thousand times.
Irene Knapp was lucky it was around when her doctor had found a growth in her esophagus, it was a precancerous growth.
"Precancerous. It's a little scary when you hear those words. It looked precancerous so we decided it had to be referred to a specialist," said Irene Knapp, a patient.
To Dr. Stavros Stavropoulos, who looks into the stomach and esophagus on a bunch of patients, the tiny microscope has made things simpler and faster.
"This tiny microscope allows you to better extent and stage of these lesions by getting a pathologic diagnosis right there at the bedside," said Dr. Stavropoulos, of Winthrop-University Hospital.
Normally, pathologists prepare biopsies from precancers and look at them under the microscope.
It can take a week or more for a diagnosis.
Now, Dr. Stavropoulos can simply thread the tiny device through the endoscope in the patient's esophagus.
It comes out next to the precancer.
Once the tiny microscope is threaded into the intestine, doctors press it up against the intestinal lining to see the microscope images.
The images showed not precancerous cells, but actual cancer cells.
Dr. Stavropoulos was able to remove them completely through the scope.
Irene was diagnosed and operated on, all in four hours instead of several weeks.
"Right then and there he could know and he could save my life and give me many years. I was very fortunate and I owe him a lot," Knapp said.
The microscope is also used to diagnose and treat precancerous colon polyps and problems in the pancreas and bile ducts.
Irene improved so quickly from the esophageal cancer removal that a couple of months later, she had open heart surgery and had a normal recovery.
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