More than 2,000 patients in Scotland have now benefitted from PillCam - a tiny camera hidden inside a capsule, about the size of a vitamin tablet, that patients swallow to scan for bowel cancer. Scotland was the first country in the world to provide colon capsule endoscopy as a treatment and is looking like it could be a very viable alternative to a traditional colonoscopy.
This new imaging technology meant that throughout the pandemic, bowel diagnostics have been able to continue due to the easy and painless nature of colon capsule endoscopy (CCE). Traditionally, colonoscopies are an invasive procedure that requires sedation which can cause anguish and discomfort in patients. During the pandemic, the number of screenings had to be reduced which meant bowel cancer could go undetected for much longer periods of time causing many more fatalities.
• Read more: Best microscopes
PillCam works by being swallowed and as it passes through the small bowel it takes 50,000 photos at a rate of two to six frames per second in order to detect early signs of cancer. Images are then transmitted to a device worn around the patient's waist which is returned to the hospital to be examined. Once the photos have been taken, the single-use capsule passes through the patient and gets flushed away.
Professor Angus Watson, consultant colorectal surgeon and clinical lead for colon capsule endoscopy said, We are delighted to reach this milestone of 2,000 patients’ receiving this exciting fast and effective diagnostic procedure”
“This test is painless and although they [patients] will still need to undergo the same cleaning preparation beforehand, all they are doing is swallowing the capsule and letting the camera do the work”.
CCE seems to have a been big success in Scotland so far but there has been no word on when it might be available as a treatment in other countries. This incredible advancement in cancer diagnosis will not only ensure that patients are more comfortable throughout the screening procedure but it could also help to save lives as cancer treatments can be started much sooner.