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The Capsule Cam

The capsule cam, only slightly larger than an antibiotic pill, is a tiny device that has the power to go where no other instrument has previously been able to travel: deep inside a patient's small intestine to find disease while there's still time to treat it, CBS 2's Paul Moniz reports.

The easy-to-swallow capsule has its own flash and takes two pictures per second. It travels easily through the small intestine, constantly beaming data to a hard drive the patient wears on a belt, powered by a battery pack. The disposable capsule is excreted and flushed away.

The data it receives is converted to pictures and becomes a permanent record.

The capsule cam is an important advance because remote portions of the small intestine are very difficult to see and though disease is rare in those areas, it is often too advanced to treat by the time it's detected.

The capsule cam can find the source of intestinal bleeding, such as locate bowel tumors, ulcers and other abnormalities, when conventional methods fail.

New jersey attorney Howard Popper underwent a battery of invasive tests to locate the source of internal bleeding. When the tests failed to find anything, Popper was referred to Dr. Blair Lewis, who is finishing up clinical tests on the camsule cam.

Within hours after Popper swallowed one, Dr. Lewis found the culprit.

"There is sort of a bulge, [which was] a tumor of the small intestine," Dr. Lewis explains. "It was very easy to spot. Tumors and blood just suddenly appear."

"Mortality is 85 percent in two years, so the point is we can't diagnose it until it's too late," explains Pablo Halpern, the V.P. of marketing for Given Imaging, the company which manufactures the capsule cam.

Another benefit to the capsule cam is that it doesn't tie up your whole day. Even though it has to be swallowed on an empty stomach, you can go about your daily activities.

However, the capsule cam does have several shortcomings.

The capsule cannot be stopped or repositioned once swallowed and if it finds a polyp or tumor, it cannot take a biopsy or remove it the way a colonoscopy can. That means a second procedure, such as surgery, man be necessary.

The capsule could be available by spring.

It costs between $400 and $500, much less than traditional endoscopic procedures.

Mr. Popper's tumor turned out to be pre-cancerous and surgeons were able to remove it before cancer set in.

"I believe the capsule camera saved my life!" he says.

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