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Ysbyty Gwynedd trials new colon capsule endoscopy cameras to test for bowel cancer

3 November, 2022

Miniature cameras that patients can swallow to get checked for bowel cancer are now being trialled at Ysbyty Gwynedd as part of a national project.

The Pillcam Colon capsule is an easy to swallow pill with two cameras inside. It provides clear images to help clinicians detect polyps, which can progress to bowel cancer, and helps them determine if a colonoscopy is necessary.

Traditional colonoscopies involve inviting patients to hospital for an outpatient procedure, where they will have a tube inserted into the large intestine. This can be an invasive procedure, whereas this new technology, offered to a small number of suitable patients initially, will mean that after swallowing the capsule, people can continue to go about their normal daily activities.

The first patient to undergo this procedure as part of this project in Wales was seen at the Endoscopy Department at Ysbyty Gwynedd.

Sandra Ewing, Nurse Endoscopist at Ysbyty Gwynedd, said: “We are really excited to be the first hospital in Wales to pilot this new technology as part of the national project.

“It’s a great step forward in working towards improving the experience for patients needing these types of investigations.”

Consultant Gastroenterologist, Dr Jonathan Sutton, at Ysbyty Gwynedd, added: “We are always keen to use new technology within our department to benefit our patients. 

“We are privileged to be part of this national project as this has the potential to make a huge difference for patients and will help diagnose cases of cancer early, giving patients the best possible outcomes from treatment using a less invasive procedure.”

This innovative procedure is new to Wales and is currently being trialled at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, Cardiff & Vale University Health Board, Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board and Swansea Bay University Health Board.

The project is led by the National Endoscopy Programme, and is being supported by the Bevan Commission Planned Care Innovation Programme.

Professor Sunil Dolwani, Clinical Lead for the National Endoscopy Programme (NEP), said: "Part of our role in the NEP is to bring together clinical and research expertise to improve services and diagnostic procedures for patients in Wales.

“The PillCam colon capsule pilot is an excellent example of the innovation that is possible when professionals collaborate across organisations.

“By providing clinicians with another diagnostic option for patients waiting for a colonoscopy, Colon Capsule Endoscopy could help to address issues around waiting times and staff capacity within the lower gastro-intestinal cancer pathway.”

One of the aspirations of the project is to establish a national reporting pool of trained doctors and nurses who are able to review the capsule pictures remotely wherever they are in Wales.

The success of the project and the benefits of the test for patients will be reviewed in partnership with Cardiff University early next year.