More than 2000 patients have now been screened for bowel cancer by swallowing a tiny camera hidden inside a capsule.
The colon capsule endoscopy (CCE) service is available across NHS Scotland and is supported by the Centre for Sustainable Delivery (CfSD) based at NHS Golden Jubilee in Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire.
Health chiefs said the CCE service, which sees patients swallow a tiny camera, has allowed bowel diagnostics to continue throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Scotland is the first country in the world to provide the technology as a routine service for patients and the first in the United Kingdom to mark the milestone of 2000 patients.
The new imaging technology, which is hidden inside a capsule about the size of a pill, has allowed bowel diagnostics to continue throughout the Covid pandemic.
CCE sees patients swallow the tiny camera. As PillCam passes through the digestive system, it takes 50,000 pictures of the bowel helping to identify early signs of cancer.
The images are transmitted to a recording device worn on a belt around the patient’s waist, which is then returned to the hospital where images are downloaded and reviewed.
The single-use capsule passes through the patient’s bowel before being flushed away.
Professor Angus Watson, consultant colorectal surgeon and clinical lead for colon capsule endoscopy, said: “We are delighted to reach this milestone of 2000 patients’ receiving this exciting, fast and effective diagnostic procedure.
“Traditionally patients’ undergoing this test would require sedation and could be quite anxious coming in for their appointment.
“This test is painless and although they will still need to undergo the same cleansing preparation beforehand, all they are doing is swallowing the capsule and letting the camera do the work.
“This advancement in cancer diagnosis is excellent news for the people of Scotland and allows us to not only put patient’s first, but supports our plans as we continue to recover from the impact of the pandemic.”
Health care support worker Jacqueline Gribbon, from Provanmill, Glasgow, had the procedure at an NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde clinic at the Golden Jubilee National Hospital in December.
Jacqueline, who works in endoscopy for the NHS, was offered a colonoscopy. But when she asked if there was another way the diagnostic test could be done she was told about the PillCam.
She said: “I have diverticula so a colonoscopy is quite uncomfortable and because I have sleep apnoea as well, I can’t get a lot of sedation.
“I was told I was a good candidate for the capsule colonoscopy and I was quite happy to try it.
“It’s a lot easier, it’s just swallowing a tablet, the prep is just the same as for a normal colonoscopy and it’s a really good option if you’re worried about the procedure as it’s a lot less invasive.
“It’s painless, it’s not uncomfortable at all, it’s easy to do and as long as you follow your prep work it’s straight forward, I’d definitely recommend it.”
The programme is part of Scotland’s Colon Capsule Endoscopy Service (SCOTCAP), which aims to detect bowel cancer early so that treatment can be provided as quickly as possible.
As the number of traditional colonoscopies which could be carried out was reduced during the Covid-19 pandemic, clinicians have been using the capsule to see and treat more patients while reducing waiting times, and ensuring patients receive reassurance or a quick diagnosis.
Dr John Thomson, consultant gastroenterologist and associate clinical director of the Centre for Sustainable Delivery, said: “We are delighted to be able to offer this new diagnostic technology to patients across Scotland.
“It has great potential to improve patient experience with faster diagnostic imaging, facilitating targeted treatments and improving long term outcomes
“This cutting-edge technology will not only help people get the health checks they need but also make it as convenient and as quick as possible.”
Dr Scott Davidson, deputy medical director for acute at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said: “CCE demonstrates the value of collaboration at a national level to use innovative technologies and services to help tackle waiting lists across the country.
“The procedure allows for another pathway for suitable patients to undergo investigation, and is particularly important in the context of Covid-19 as we look to new procedures which will help ensure patients are seen as quickly as possible.”