Endoscopy is a procedure that allows your doctor to look inside your body using a special instrument called an endoscope, a thin, tube-like structure with a light source and a video camera that can be inserted into the body. It is routinely used for screening, prevention, early detection, staging, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
Endoscopic procedures can be used to find cancer early before it grows larger or spreads to other parts of the body. Some of these procedures and their indications include laryngoscopy in cases of long standing hoarseness, upper endoscopy for difficulty with swallowing and colonoscopy for blood in stools or anemia. Regular colonoscopies and sigmoidoscopies are recommended after the age of 50.
As a cancerous tumor grows, it may create complications by impinging on the surrounding structures or creating blockages within the lungs or the digestive tract. Endoscopy can be used to excise and take out or destroy the tumors. The procedure involves making two or three small incisions in the skin through which the endoscope and other long thin instruments are used in a minimally invasive manner to perform surgery. Laser and cautery instruments may also be used during these procedures. For advanced, untreatable forms of cancer, endoscopy may be used to perform palliative procedures such as de-bulking of a tumor that might be blocking essential blood and nutrient supply to a part of the body. If a tumor is pressing against the airway, a rigid tube may be placed endoscopically to keep the airway open.
There is less blood loss from endoscopic surgery due to its minimally invasive nature. Image magnification during endoscopy provides better visualization for precise surgical excision. This ensures minimal damage to healthy tissue and faster recovery from the procedure.
Managing cancer complications endoscopically requires a high degree of surgical skill and usually requires a longer duration under anesthesia.