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Neuroendocrine Cancer Community

NHS Rolls Out Capsule Cameras to Test for Cancer

Mar 11, 2021

NHS Rolls Out Capsule Cameras, to more people, in a trial to test for cancer – Miniature cameras which patients can swallow to get checked for cancer, of the digestive system are being trialled, in a wider audience, across the NHS.

The digestive system and how it works:

VCE or video capsule endoscopy has been used, for some time, in both adults and children, to help detect neuroendocrine cancers or other disorders that affect the small bowel.

The imaging technology that can test for cancer in a capsule no bigger than a pill, can provide a diagnosis within hours.

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

Traditional endoscopies mean patients need to attend hospital and have a tube inserted whereas the new technology means that people can go about their normal day.

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

Information about this and other types of investigations, used in Neuroendocrine Cancer,  can be found here.

For this trial – an initial group of 11,000 NHS patients in England will receive the capsule cameras. The trial is being rolled out across more than 40 sites.

 At UCLH, the endoscopy team have already started using the innovative diagnostic tool.
Clinical lead Ed Seward said:

Colon capsule is a new innovation that has recently become available and involves swallowing a camera pill that takes pictures of the bowel as it passes through. These pictures are beamed to a recording device that the patient wears at their waist.

Not only does colon capsule increase our diagnostic capacity, because it doesn’t require the resources of a dedicated hospital space to do the examination, it also allows us to do the examination in the patient’s home, so patients who may be shielding or cautious about going to a hospital, can perform the procedure in the comfort of their own homes.

Dr Alastair McKinlay, President of The British Society of Gastroenterology, said:

We welcome any initiative that seeks to simplify and improve the early diagnosis of gastrointestinal disease and, in particular, colorectal cancer which unfortunately is still responsible for many avoidable deaths.

Colon capsule is a promising new technology that may offer a real advantage for some patients. For this reason, we welcome the opportunity for a proper service evaluation so that both the limitations and advantages of this technique can be properly assessed. We welcome NHS England’s decision to work with some of the UK’s top experts in this field to make sure that the technology has a proper evaluation. This information will put the UK at the forefront of the world in this important new area.

Genevieve Edwards, Chief Executive at Bowel Cancer UK, says:

This has the potential to make a huge difference for people with bowel cancer symptoms and could help the NHS to prioritise those who urgently need further tests.

NHS Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens said:  

As we come out of ‘peak covid’ and the disruption of the pandemic, the NHS is now pushing ahead with genuine innovation to expand services for many other conditions. That’s why we’re now trialing these ingenious capsule cameras to allow more people to undergo cancer investigations quickly and safely. What sounds like sci-fi is now becoming a reality, and as these minute cameras pass through your body, they take two pictures per second checking for signs of cancer and other conditions like Crohn’s disease.

Infection control measures required to make endoscopies Covid-secure mean they take much longer to do, which has reduced the number of people who can undergo the life-saving checks.

The cameras will help to speed up the checks, catching more cancers early when they are easier to treat.

Professor Peter Johnson, NHS clinical director for cancer said:

From the cutting edge technology of these colon capsules to Covid protected hubs and chemo home deliveries, the NHS has fast tracked new ways of treating and diagnosing cancer – all while responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

Endoscopy services continue and thanks to the hard work of NHS staff, cancer treatment and referrals have come back to usual levels, with more than 25,000 people treated for cancer in December and more than 200,000 coming forward for checks – 13,000 more than the previous year.

The NHS message to anyone experiencing symptoms is clear – do not delay, help us to help you by coming forward for care – the NHS is ready and able to treat you.

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