Bowel cancer: Forth Valley uses tiny camera in a pill to detect condition

A tiny camera, encapsulated in a pill, is now being used in Forth Valley Royal Hospital to help detect early signs of bowel cancer.

Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 4:22 pm
Updated Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 4:23 pm

The capsule, which is the size of a large vitamin pill, is swallowed by patients and takes the same journey through the gut as food.

As it passes through the digestive system it captures thousands of images of the lining of the bowel to help identify any signs of disease such as cancer or inflammatory bowel disease. These images are automatically transmitted to a recorder device worn on a belt around the patient’s waist which they return to the hospital within 24hrs so images can be downloaded and reviewed.

The single-use capsule passes through the patient’s bowel and is able to be flushed away.

The pill is in a tiny camera which is swallowed

The initiative is part of Scotland’s Colon Capsule Endoscopy Service (SCOTCAP) which aims to help detect bowel cancer earlier so that treatment can be provided as quickly as possible.

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The roll-out of the new service across Scotland has been accelerated in response to the Covid-19 pandemic which has reduced the number of colonoscopies which can be carried out each day due to extra cleaning of rooms between patients and the use of PPE.

Clinicians say the use of the new capsule will allow them to see and treat more patients and reduce waiting times. This will help tackle the backlog and ensure patients either quickly receive reassurance or a quick diagnosis.


Paul Hendry, consultant colorectal surgeon and clinical lead for endoscopy, NHS Forth Valley, said: “Swallowing the capsule with water is painless and the patient does not need to be sedated although they still have to undergo the same bowel-cleansing preparation as a patient undergoing a colonoscopy.

“It will allow us to prioritise patients that still need to undergo colonoscopy and support our recovery plans as we work hard to address the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic”

Although the procedure is not suitable for every patient, those who meet the criteria are now able to attend new weekly SCOTCAP clinics at the hospital.

Initially, around 450–500 patients a year are expected to undergo the new colon capsule endoscopy procedure.

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