Israeli-invented swallowable cameras to check for bowel cancer launched on NHS
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Israeli-invented swallowable cameras to check for bowel cancer launched on NHS

Sci-fi tech avoids need for colonoscopies and may see patients taking cancer tests at home

A miniature camera, shown for size reference next to a pen (Image: NHS / PA)
A miniature camera, shown for size reference next to a pen (Image: NHS / PA)

Mini cameras which are swallowed by patients to check for cancer are being trialled across the NHS. 

The innovative Israeli-invented tech has been welcomed by Jewish cancer charity, Chai Cancer Care, which says it will avoid the need for uncomfortable colonoscopies.

The capsule, no bigger than a pill, can provide a diagnosis within hours. The “sci-fi” invention takes two pictures a second as it makes its way through the body, checking for signs of cancer and other conditions such as Crohn’s disease.

An initial group of 11,000 NHS patients in England will be eligible for the capsule. “We welcome this very encouraging development and breakthrough in camera testing as a replacement for uncomfortable endoscopies,” said Chai Chief Executive, Lisa Steele. 

“Bowel cancer is the 4th most common cancer in the UK, and there is always much anxiety waiting for results so to be able to have such a fast turnaround will be of tremendous benefit.”

The cameras are swallowed, and take pictures of patients’ bowels to check for cancer (Image: NHS/PA)

The capsule endoscopy 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.

First invented in Israel before being acquired by US company Medtronic, the cameras are already being used by University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in London.

Its clinical lead, Ed Seward, explained that the pill cameras mean patients would be able to have the tests at home as opposed to in the hospital.

“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,” he said.

“So patients who may be shielding or cautious about going to a hospital, can perform the procedure in the comfort of their own homes.”

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens added: “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.”

Thousands of NHS patients will be given the camera (Image: NHS / PA)

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