UK trials pill-sized cameras in effort to combat bowel cancer

Written on 03/11/2021

By Ciarán Mather

The UK's National Health Service (NHS) will trial a new project involving the use of pill-sized cameras that can be ingested orally to look for signs of certain diseases.

Aptly named PillCams, these inventions are hoped to be used in the near future to  help detect early signs of bowel cancer, according to a recent report by Sky News.

These capsule cameras will allow a doctor to look for early signs of bowel cancer, as well as for other bowel conditions such as Crohn's disease.

It is hoped that PillCams will become a successful alternative to carrying out invasive and uncomfortable hospital procedures involving tubes.

Professor Peter Johnson, the NHS clinical director for cancer, remains hopeful about the project, saying: 'Every year in England, we diagnose around 42,000 people with bowel cancer' that's more than 100 people a day.'

'We think that this camera test might be a better option than waiting for a normal colonoscopy,' Prof. Johnson added.

Once they are swallowed, PillCams take two pictures per second as they capsule travel through a patient's digestive system. 

These images are then stored in a data recorder that the patient carries around in a bag.

According to the Irish Cancer Society, bowel cancer is quite a common cancer in Ireland, with 2,800 people being affected by the illness annually.

Fortunately, this type of cancer can be treated once it is caught early.

While there are no concrete statistics relating to Crohn's disease in Ireland, it is believed by the Irish Society for Colitis and Crohn's Disease that at least 40,000 people are living with an inflammatory bowel disorder (IBD) in Ireland. 

Given these statistics, if the PillCams trial proves to be successful, this could also be a gamechanger for the Irish medical system if it were licensed for use here.