Spying on Cancer

January 1, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
For some cancer patients the New Year brings new hope.

Laura Davis knows a thing or two about winning family trivia games.

But for the last seven years, she's been up against a different opponent, breast cancer.

"Every day, I just try to be normal, as normal as possible, every day," said Laura Davis, a cancer patient.

Laura's had surgery and chemo, but her cancer has come back three times. Doctors worried that her cancer might have spread to her bile duct. Typically, they've relied on x-rays or biopsies for diagnosis, which can be inaccurate and painful. Doctor Michel Kahaleh uses a new technology called Spyglass on Laura to see what was going on.

"The concept is what you see better, you can treat better," said Kahaleh, Director Pancreatico-Biliary Services.

A fiber optic probe with a miniature camera is placed down the patient's throat and travels all the way to the bile duct. It magnifies the area and allows doctors to see cancer, benign tumors and stones in real time.

"Now, we can finally see all those diseases that we were suspecting," said Kahaleh.

If cancer is present, doctors can immediately use a laser to destroy it. In a study, using Spyglass with laser therapy more than doubled the survival rates for patients with bile duct cancer. Luckily, Laura's bile duct was clear of any cancer. Doctor Kahelah was able to tell her the good news on the spot.

"The more information you can get, the better off you are as a patient," said Davis.

Now, she can enjoy family time knowing doctors are keeping a closer eye on her cancer.

Doctors say this technology could soon be used to detect and treat pancreatic cancer as well.