A tiny camera that fits inside a pill-sized capsule has revolutionised cancer screening in Scotland. Over two thousand patients have now used the PillCam rather than the more traditional invasive method of having a colonoscopy. The PillCam has reduced waiting times for bowel cancer screening and allowed faster diagnoses, an important factor in battling the disease.
The procedure itself is technically called a colon capsule endoscopy (CCE). The tiny camera is swallowed like a pill and then travels through the digestive system, recording 50,000 images along its journey. The images from the camera are stored in a recorder worn on a belt around the patient’s waist.
The traditional method of testing for bowel problems is an invasive procedure that requires the patient to be sedated. Anyone who has experienced a colonoscopy will tell you it’s not particularly pleasant. The PillCam, however, can be administered in hospital, and then the patient can return home during the process, eventually excreting the camera after it has passed through the digestive tract.
Patients have reported the procedure to be completely painless and not unpleasant, although still do have to do the same prep work beforehand as a traditional colonoscopy requires. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a considerable reduction in investigative procedures so cutting edge technology such as this is having a positive impact on getting patients screened and treated as quickly as possible.
The camera can capture between two and six frames per second, and although in Scotland has been used mostly for bowel cancer screening, the device can also be used to monitor Chrohn’s disease, anaemia, and bleeding of the intestines.
I’m not sure about you but I think I prefer the idea of swallowing a tiny camera than having one going in the other direction!