UK to introduce 'ingenious' tiny cameras you can swallow to check for cancer

Breakthrough technology means some patients will no longer need to go to hospital for bowel cancer check

Miami Beach, holding PillCam Endoscopy camera. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Powered by automated translation

Thousands of patients in England will soon be given “ingenious” tiny cameras to swallow to check for cancer.

The technology, delivered in a pill-size capsule, takes images as it passes through the bowel and transmits them to a device worn in a shoulder bag. The camera can then be flushed away.

A traditional endoscopy means patients need to go to hospital to have a tube inserted.

Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of the National Health Service, said people could go about their day while they were checked for cancer.

“That’s why we’re now trialling these ingenious capsule cameras to allow more people to undergo cancer investigations quickly and safely,” he said.

“What sounds like sci-fi is now becoming a reality, and as these minute cameras pass through your body, they take two pictures per second checking for signs of cancer and other conditions like Crohn’s disease.”

An initial group of 11,000 NHS patients in England will receive the capsule cameras.

Prof Peter Johnson, the NHS's clinical director for cancer, said he hopes the technology saves lives.

"Every year in England, we diagnose around 42,000 people with bowel cancer, that's more than 100 people a day," he said.

"We think that this camera test might be a better option than waiting for a normal colonoscopy.”

Cancer Research UK says approximately 16,600 people die from bowel cancer in the UK every year.