Colon Cancer Screening, The Easy Way

Radiology researchers devise a workaround for a nasty problem

3 min read

A new software program promises to make one of medicine's more grimace-inducing checkups significantly simpler. By devising a way to digitally clean up three-dimensional X-ray images of the colon, a group of researchers at the State University of New York at Stony Brook hope to encourage more patients to receive their recommended colon cancer screenings.

Colorectal cancer kills close to 700 000 people each year worldwide--a staggering number considering that most of these victims are done in by a tumor that ticks like a time bomb for as long as 15 years before erupting. This easily foiled killer creeps up on so many people because the gold standard in colorectal cancer detection, the colonoscopy, is tremendously unpopular. The prescreening regimen requires ingesting nothing but liquids for 24 hours, including a diarrhea-inducing concoction that forces a patient to stay near the bathroom for hours. Then there's the test itself: a camera attached to a fiber-optic cable is inserted into a patient's rear and snaked through the colon. This allows a doctor to visually inspect the walls of the gut for the presence of polyps that could turn cancerous.

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic

Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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