NHS Forth Valley now offer pioneering Cytosponge cancer testing technique

An innovative, non-invasive “sponge on a string” device used to help detect cancer at an early stage is now being used in NHS Forth Valley.
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The Cytosponge means, in just 10 minutes, Barrett’s Oesophagus patients can be screened for oesophageal adenocarcinoma (OAC) or its pre-curser dysplasia.

Early detection of OAC can significantly improve survival rates and the Cytosponge screening programme has already had life-saving outcomes as it has helped identify cancerous

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The Cytosponge is a small, pill sized device on a string that can be easily swallowed, without the need for sedation. The outer coating of the device dissolves in the patient’s stomach to reveal a small sponge like device which collects cells from the entire length of the oesophagus as it removed via the string attachment.

Forth Valley Royal Hospital nurse Julie MacDonald with the Cytosponge deviceForth Valley Royal Hospital nurse Julie MacDonald with the Cytosponge device
Forth Valley Royal Hospital nurse Julie MacDonald with the Cytosponge device

These cells are then sent to the lab for examination.

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Julie MacDonald, NHS Forth Valley nurse endoscopist, said: “We have been using this procedure locally in Forth Valley for patients with acid reflux and Barrett’s Oesophagus since October 2020. It is a simple, safe, reliable test that can be conducted in an outpatient setting.

"It is a less time consuming procedure for both patient and staff, and less invasive than an endoscopy. The feedback from patients has been very positive as there is no requirement for sedation or recovery time afterwards and normal activities like driving can be resumed immediately which makes it much more convenient.”

Forth Valley patient Elizabeth Mcewan, who has undergone the procedure, said: “Cytosponge is a very easy and very comfortable alternative to endoscopy. I was very relaxed thanks to the nurse who talked me through the whole thing.

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"The device is put at the back of your throat to swallow with a big gulp of water. There was no gagging sensation as the string its attached to is tiny. A short time later the nurse asked if I was happy with her pulling it back up and if I would like some throat numbing spray.

"It was about eight minutes from swallowing it and I could go walk straight out. I have had my Cytosponge results back and they are all clear, no cancer or abnormal cells, which I am really reassured about.”

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