Il English health service has started testing a new miniature photographic device that a patient can swallow to check if he has bowel cancer, as an alternative to traditional colonoscopy.
For many people, a colonoscopy can be a slow, uncomfortable, and embarrassing process. But now patients in England will have the option of avoiding it by ingesting a pill-sized capsule instead.
How is Pillcam made, the “video capsule” to avoid colonoscopy
Inside the capsule, called the PillCam, a tiny camera records images with a data rate of up to 8,1 Mbps. The images are then transmitted to an external recorder, mounted on a belt worn around the waist.
No hospital visit is required for this procedure and the user can continue most of the daily activities while the capsule is in the body. Not just no colonoscopy, in short. Patients can also continue to take medications in addition to the Pillcam.
What sounds like science fiction is now becoming a reality, and as these tiny cameras pass through your body, they check for signs of cancer and other conditions like Crohn's disease.Simon Stevens, managing director of the NHS, the British health service
The Pillcam path
The process takes between five and eight hours. Photos of the intestine are sent wirelessly from the capsule to the recorder, and forwarded to an oncologist for evaluation. Patients expel the capsule when they go to the bathroom. An initial group of 11.000 UK patients will receive the capsules in approximately 40 areas of the country.
Bowel cancer has the second highest death rate in the world. Approximately hundreds of thousands of people are diagnosed each year, and the victims are countless. Although it is a treatable cancer, especially if detected early, many people do not see a doctor because they dislike the prospect of a colonoscopy. This "embarrassment factor" is responsible for delays of an average of 10 weeks between noticing symptoms and contacting a healthcare professional. New technologies and devices like the PillCam could help get more people diagnosed and treated early.
"Colonoscopy" at home
The future of healthcare will see more and more remote treatments: patients will be able to transmit their data to health experts even from home, and this solution that replaces colonoscopy could play a crucial role.