New capsule cameras to test for cancer

Miniature cameras which patients can swallow to get checked for cancer are now being trialled at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust.

The imaging technology, in a capsule no bigger than a pill, can provide a diagnosis within hours. It’s being rolled out across the NHS in the south west of England.

Known as a colon capsule endoscopy, the cameras are the latest NHS innovation to help patients access cancer checks at home.

Traditional colonoscopy involves a hospital attendance for an outpatient procedure, where a hospital specialist inserts a telescope into the large intestine (colon).  The new technology means that, after swallowing the capsule, people can go about their normal day with minimal inconvenience.

An initial group of 11,000 NHS patients in England will receive the capsule cameras in more than 40 parts of the country. This includes Somerset FT, along with a few other NHS trusts in the south west.

Capsule colonoscopy as an alternative to invasive lower GI examinations (colonoscopy and CT colonography) offers the potential to reduce transmission of coronavirus in aerosols and droplets created by the invasive tests.

Dr Daniel Pearl, our consultant gastroenterologist, capsule endoscopy lead and bowel cancer screening director, said:

“This is a really exciting opportunity to shift towards more patient friendly and less intrusive examinations of the colon for patients being investigated for bowel cancer. We are delighted to have been selected as one of the three sites in the south west to develop this service and run the regional arm of the national colon capsule endoscopy pilot.”

The capsule colonoscopy procedure normally takes five to eight hours and provides full images of the bowel with information sent to a data recorder in a shoulder bag, so patients can go about their day.

The cameras will help in the fight against cancer, identifying which patients can be discharged back to their GP after a normal test, and which patients need further investigations.

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