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Can you guess which is the fastest growing cancer in the US?

Melanoma? From all those folks who think they have to be tanned to be attractive?

Nope, it's actually esophageal cancer. The esophagus carries food and liquids from your throat to your stomach. This year 16,000 people will be diagnosed in the US with esophageal cancer and 14,000 will die from it.

The challenge with this cancer is that it has so few early symptoms. But something is about to change that. An American engineering professor developed a wireless camera to travel down the esophagous. It's just the size of a pill and gives doctors a real-time view of the esophagus. Patients are awake during the exam to swallow and help move the camera. Fortunately it's not uncomfortable and the camera is retrieved by a tether.

It's also pretty affordable at three hundred dollars. Compare that with the five thousand dollar price tag of endoscopes now being used for the same exam. The new camera's low cost would encourage more people to get tested resulting in early diagnosis. That's important because there's virtually no symptoms early on. Only later does a person find it's painful or difficult to swallow. They also experience weight loss and cough up blood.

Statistics show esophageal cancer is 3 to 4 times more common among men than women and about 50% more common among African Americans than whites. Risk factors include smoking, heavy drinking and the damage from acid reflux.

These tiny cameras can help diagnose cancers much earlier when treatments can be most effective. Doctors will have to use additional tests to confirm what the cameras show but they have the potential to save many lives.

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The pill camera on a tether is described in these articles and compared with the traditional endoscopes and a competing technology in which a somewhat larger pill without a tether is swallowed. The new tethered pill camera may have some advantages in that physicians can control its descent through the esophagus and can reexamine areas of interest.
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The Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit medical practice dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of virtually every type of complex illness and is located in several cities. They have an excellent web site that is a resource for a variety of health related matters including a comprehensive page about esophageal cancer.
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The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), one of eight agencies that compose the Public Health Service (PHS) in the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The NCI, established under the National Cancer Institute Act of 1937, is the Federal Government's principal agency for cancer research and training. They provide a web site with a great deal of important information about a variety of cancers including esophageal cancer. They also provide extensive links for additional information on coping with cancer, support groups, literature and even alternative medicines.
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As always, Medline Plus is one of the best and most reliable sources of information about health issues. MedlinePlus brings together authoritative information from National Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and other government agencies and health-related organizations. MedlinePlus also has extensive information about drugs, an illustrated medical encyclopedia, interactive patient tutorials, and latest health news.
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