Jelly bean-sized colon capsule camera swallowed by first patient

The first patient to have the colon capsule procedure, who does not wish to be named, in England.

The first patient to have the colon capsule procedure in England. - Credit: East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust

A takeaway colon capsule with two tiny cameras is set to help speed up the diagnosis of suspected cancer in Suffolk and Essex.

East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust is the first to trial the technology, which takes four pictures every second as it passes through a patient’s system. 

This is mostly of the lining of the bowel – so doctors can see what is happening inside -  and can detect whether a patient has colorectal cancer. 

Staff at a hospital standing two metre distanced

East Suffolk and North Essex NHS team is working on a national pilot study in England via the East of England Cancer Alliance - Credit: East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation

Currently, patients that have bowel issues would normally go into hospital and have a colonoscopy.

This involves inserting a long flexible camera up a person’s back passage to look inside their colon and help diagnose issues such as ulcers, diverticulitis or a tumour.

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Colchester Hospital consultant gastroenterologist Dr Mary McStay is one of the team working on a national pilot study in England.

She will assess how effective the colon capsule will be by following patients referred for urgent investigation of symptoms suggestive of colorectal cancer.

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Dr McStay said: “This is a very exciting development, as it means patients needing these really important investigations can have them done as an outpatient and it will speed up the process and diagnosis.

“The patient will be able to go home rather than stay in the hospital while the procedure is done.”

"The patient will need to take some laxatives at home before the test to prepare their bowel. They will then come to the clinic and be fitted with a sensor belt and data recorder where the images are stored. After they swallow the capsule they can go home and let it run its course.

‘’The technology is so clever; the recorder beeps to tell the person when to take more laxatives to help the capsule pass through the bowel and when the capsule has left their body.’’

Patient standing in hospital room

The colon capsule patient is the first in England - Credit: East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust

Once the readings are taken, the patient will need to return to hospital the following day to drop off the belt and data recorder for analysis. If the test is normal, patients can be reassured and discharged to their GP. If an abnormality is seen they will be invited for a colonoscopy.

Patients who may have already had a poo test and are deemed to need further investigations will be considered for the colon capsule procedure, which has already been used in a successful pilot in Scotland.

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