St. Anthony Hospital is the first hospital in Colorado to use the new advanced-imaging technology, called Cellvizio, with at-risk patients during standard endoscopy and colonoscopy procedures as well as the pancreatic and bile duct cancer detection procedure.

Cellvizio allows physicians to view internal tissues cell-by-cell to pinpoint cancerous and pre-cancerous tissue more efficiently than current procedures. Dr. Matt Reveille says the new technology helps doctors respond once they identify dangerous tissue.

"During the examination, if we identify pre-cancerous conditions or if we, in fact, see cancer cells under the laser micro-endoscope, we can inform the patient right then and there," Reveille said.

Before Cellvizio, doctors would take random tissue samples, which would then be sent to a lab for analysis - a longer and sometimes inefficient process.

The microscope is located at the end of a catheter which is threaded through a traditional endoscope, during an endoscopy or colonscopy. Before an endoscopy exam, patients receive a dye intravenously, which makes pre-cancerous or cancerous cells appear as black spots under the microscope. Using the new technology adds only a few minutes to the standard endoscopic exam and does not have additional risks.

Gastroenterologists at St. Anthony's are using the microscope to diagnose and treat early signs of esophageal cancer, pancreatic cancer and colon cancer, as well as during follow-up colonoscopies for patients who have had pre-cancerous polyps removed. The hospital plans to also use Cellvizio in its pulmonary and surgery departments.

Rose Heaphy contributed to this article.