Researchers have developed a new device known as Third Eye Retroscope that works like a 'rear-view mirror' for doctors during bowel examinations, helping them to detect 25 per cent more cancer cells on average.
Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer afflicting the UK, with 40,000 new diagnoses a year, of which 16,000 end in fatalities.
Although the disease is treatable if detected early, 90 percent of patients are diagnosed once the cancer is advanced, often because they are too embarrassed to seek medical help.
Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, blood in the stools and unexpected weight loss. The device is used along with a standard colonoscope to improve detection. Thousands of patients a year undergo a colonoscopy, the New England Journal of Medicine reported.
This 30-minute out-patient procedure, often carried out under sedation, involves a colonoscope - a thin, bendy tube with a video camera and light on the end of it - being inserted into the anal orifice, according to the Daily Mail.
As the device is withdrawn from the body, the camera relays video images of the inside of the bowel back to the doctor to check for abnormal growths, called adenomatous polyps or adenomas. These can then be removed before they become cancerous.
Research has revealed that removing adenomas reduces deaths from bowel cancer by 53 percent.
However, a number of studies published over the past 15 years have shown that traditional colonoscopies miss between 21 and 24 percent of adenomas, and 12 percent of large adenomas one cm or more in size which are at greatest risk of becoming cancerous.
In two-thirds of cases, this is because they are hidden behind folds in the wall of the bowel. In other cases, adenomas may be missed because the bowel has not been emptied properly before the procedure.
US scientists have developed the Third Eye Retroscope, which provides an additional video camera which gives a rear-facing view to reveal the areas behind folds that are hidden from the front-facing view of the colonoscope.