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Bowel cancer screening capsules the latest in at-home care trend

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People will be able to check if they have bowel cancer by swallowing a tiny capsule containing miniature cameras, in an extension of patient self-care.

In what experts described as a trend towards more NHS at-home care, hastened by the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of people in England will be able to avoid the discomfort of having a camera inserted into their bowel by instead swallowing a capsule the size of a cod liver oil tablet.

Pictures transmitted from inside their body during the painless procedure will help doctors judge whether the person has bowel cancer, the second deadliest form of the disease in the UK.

The boss of the NHS in England said the procedure, known as a colon capsule endoscopy, is an example of “sci-fi” medicine increasingly deployed to improve care. One of the country’s top doctors said the capsules illustrated a major shift of healthcare out of hospitals that will see more and more diagnosis and treatment of illness done at home.

Prof Martin Marshall, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “We’re aware that some patients are reluctant to seek help for certain cancers because the diagnostic tests available can be invasive, so this is a fascinating development and we will be very interested to see the results of the trial.

“GPs are preparing for an upsurge in cases of suspected cancer cases post-Covid, and the capsule cameras and new test for cervical cancer are welcome developments that could enable more patients to monitor and manage their own health at home without embarrassment or discomfort.”

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Source: The Guardian, 11 March 2021

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