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In the last six months Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust (MTW) has removed almost 100 patients from the cancer pathway thanks to an innovative new pilot programme that helps check for signs of cancer.

MTW is the only organisation across Kent and Medway taking part in the pilot where patients swallow a tiny camera, known as a colon capsule endoscopy, to check for signs of cancer, providing a diagnosis within hours.

Since the launch of the programme in June 2021, the Trust has performed 147 colon capsule endoscopies, resulting in almost 100 patients being removed from the cancer pathway. Two patients have been referred for bowel cancer treatment and other patients have gone on to have procedures to remove pre-cancerous polyps that have been seen on images produced by the camera.

Results from the pilot to date show that MTW is in the top five Trusts for number of colon capsule endoscopies carried out since the launch of the programme. The pilot will run for a period of two years with the aim of extending the service in the future to patients outside of the cancer pathway.

Dr Laurence Maiden, Chief of Medicine and Emergency Care for MTW, commented: “This is another example of how MTW is a forward-thinking Trust, always looking for ways to embrace new technology to enhance patient care.

“We are delighted with the positive impact this pilot programme has already delivered for our patients and look forward to expanding this service beyond the cancer pathway in the future.”

Dr Henry Taylor, Chief of Cancer Services at MTW, added: “In just six months, this new technology has already made a huge difference to patient care, helping diagnose cancer at the early stages and enable us to start treatment plans for those in need. I encourage anyone with possible cancer symptoms to visit their GP and not delay treatment.”

Patients with symptoms of potential bowel cancer are referred by their GP on the Lower Gastro Intestinal Cancer Pathway and may have investigations such as the colon capsule endoscopy, which is completely painless and comes in the form of a capsule no bigger than a standard vitamin tablet.

The capsules avoid the need for a traditional endoscopy, and this means that people spend a very short time in hospital, swallow a capsule and can then go about their normal day, carrying out everyday tasks such as going to work and driving. After swallowing, the camera takes on average 5-8 hours to travel through the patient’s system, taking two images per second. Clinical staff then download the information via the data recorder strapped to the patient’s waist.

The high resolution images are then analysed to detect signs of cancer and other bowel conditions.