The Dayton VA Medical Center now has the ability to use artificial intelligence technology to help patients detect colon cancer. It’s the first VA in Ohio to use the technology to detect polyps during colonoscopies.
Last week, patient Vincent Epps underwent a colonoscopy at the medical center using a “GI Genius Module.” The tool will be used on every colonoscopy at the Dayton VA, center officials said.
Dr. Sangeeta Agrawal, the chief of the GI (gastrointestinal) Division at the Dayton VA Medical Center and chief of the division of the gastroenterology at the Boonshoft School of Medicine at Wright State University, performed the procedure.
A colonoscopy is a screening test searching for worrisome changes — such as swollen, irritated tissues, polyps or signs of cancer — in the large intestine (the colon) and the rectum.
A long, flexible instrument called an endoscope or colonoscope is placed in the colon to look around, aided by a tiny video camera at the tip. When problems are spotted, they are removed.
Polyps are benign, but most colorectal cancers arise from polyps, Agrawal said.
They should be taken seriously, Epps said before his procedure, his third colonoscopy. His family has a history of prostate issues, he said.
“It’s very important,” he said. “You definitely should stay on top of it.”
Colon cancer is the third most common cause of cancer-linked deaths in the United States, Agrawal said. The American Cancer Society recommends that people “at average risk” should start regular screening at age 45, and people who are in good health and expected to live at least more than 10 years should continue regular screening through the age of 75.
“The only reason to do colonoscopy as a screening procedure for colorectal cancer is to detect polyps and remove them, if they’re there,” Agrawal said.
AI enhances what the physician can detect.
“It’s like a second pair of smart eyes,” Agrawal said. “We are looking at the view of the colon to see if there are any polyps. What the GI Genius does, it recognizes the polyps and it puts a green box around the polyp.”
It highlights what may be problems — areas that merit a closer look, including exceptionally small polyps that can escape the human eye.
“Studies show that during colorectal cancer screenings, missed lesions can be a problem even for well-trained clinicians,” Courtney Lias, acting director of the GastroRenal, ObGyn, General Hospital and Urology Devices Office in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said.
“This is enhancing the detection,” Agrawal said.
While the Dayton VA is the first VA medical center in Ohio to use Genius GI, it is the fourth in the nation. The Food and Drug Administration approved the device in 2021.
Agrawal was interested in the technology from the start and put in an early request for VA implementation a year ago.
The center received three of the GI Genius modules.
“I’m very interested in AI and incorporating the latest technology to take care of our patients because they deserve whatever we can offer to them,” she said.