A new trial is being commenced across the NHS in which pill-sized cameras that can be swallowed and are being used to view the bowel to check for diseases such as cancer. It is called a colon capsule endoscopy and it will be trialled in 11,000 NHS patients across England to try and provide quicker and easier diagnoses.
How does this replace what we already do?
Currently at-risk patients undergo traditional colonoscopy to detect cancer. The patient comes into the hospital and has a procedure where a long tube with a camera on the end (an endoscope) is inserted through the back passage to view the bowel in real-time. The procedure is 30-45 minutes long but often patients can end up spending 3-4 hours in hospital. After the procedure, patients can feel cramps for a few hours and because of sedation they cannot drive home. Alternatively, with a capsule camera, a patient will swallow a camera pill which takes pictures of their bowel as it passes through the gut over a period of 5-8 hours. These images are sent to a sensor worn around their waist which then saves into a recording device in a shoulder bag. This all happens whilst the patient goes about their normal day. After passing through the gut the capsule is excreted through the school. What are the advantages of a pill like this? Why might a patient be against using this technology? Where else could a similar capsule be used in the body?
How has the current pandemic affected cancer diagnoses?
The university of Oxford have reported that there was a significant decrease in the number of patients diagnosed with bowel cancer in England during the first lockdown and beyond. Between April and October 2020, there were 3,500 fewer patients diagnosed with bowel cancers as the number ofGP referrals dropped and 92% fewer colonoscopies were carried out. Fortunately, since the beginning of 2021 endoscopy services have returned back to usual levels but the drop from before has left a hefty backlog leading to potentially late diagnoses.