A ‘sponge on a string’ is being used in cancer diagnoses in Scotland, with more than 5,000 people now having benefitted from the new testing procedure.
The cytosponge was introduced during the pandemic allowing patients to access cancer checks close to home.
It involves them swallowing a small pill with a thread attached, rather than using traditional scope methods and sedation.
Having been swallowed, the pill then expands into a tiny sponge which is pulled back up the oesophagus, collecting cells on the way which are then examined for abnormalities.
It helps to identify important conditions such as Barrett’s oesophagus – a known risk factor for oesophageal cancer.
The procedure has now been used more than 5,000 times across Scotland.
Health secretary Humza Yousaf explained the procured offers a “simpler alternative” to endoscopy procedures.
“The cytosponge is an excellent example of an innovative technology that allows people to access service quicker and close to home,” he said.
“It is helping to deliver better outcomes for patients, while also easing pressures at our hospitals. That’s why I am pleased to see it being used so widely.
“Cytosponge offers a simpler alternative to endoscopy procedures and takes only around 15 minutes.
“It is a much simpler and more patient-friendly test than endoscopy that enables faster diagnosis of patients at risk of pre or early cancer, without the need for them to undergo a more invasive procedure.
“Using this new technology means we can help tackle the waiting lists for endoscopy procedures that have risen during the pandemic.”
Professor Jann Gardner, NHS Golden Jubilee chief executive, indicated the test provides a more comfortable experience for patients.
“In these challenging times, it is vital that we improve patient experience with faster diagnostic imaging, facilitating targeted treatments and improving long term outcomes,” said Gardner.
“This cutting-edge technology has helped NHS Scotland advance cancer diagnosis and provide direct benefit to over 5,000 patients.
“Cytosponge provides a better, more comfortable experience for patients and we look forward to ensuring that even more people are treated this way as we continue to help meet the diagnostic demand resulting from the pandemic.”