The clinical pilot was launched on Monday, 22 March (credit: BHRUT)
BHRUT is the only trust in North East London to pilot the life-saving ‘Cytosponge’, which launched on Monday, 22 March.
Patients will be given a capsule to swallow, which is attached to a thread, and it will dissolve in their stomach, releasing a small piece of sponge.
The sponge is then removed by slowly pulling on the string and while it is being removed it captures cells from the gullet which are sent for testing.
It is hoped in the long-term Cytosponge will be available in GP surgeries up and down the country.
Clinical Lead for Oesophagogastric Cancer and Upper Gastrointestinal Surgery, Dip Mukherjee said: “It can be done anywhere really in the GP surgery etc and it’s very non-invasive. There’s no sedation or instrumentation involved.
“It’s easily acceptable, you don’t gag etc. From a patients point of view it’s really wonderful.”
“Previously, the only way to detect cancer or pre-cancerous conditions of the stomach and gullet, such as reflux or Barrett’s Oesophagus, was to have an endoscopy, which many people do not like.
“Cytosponge is a game-changer and most importantly, it will save lives.”
The procedure will help detect Barrett’s Oesophagus, which causes the most rapidly increasing cancer in the Western World.
“This can affect any race, any age, any sex, however it’s predominantly worryingly increasing in middle-age men; people who we know are least likely, with their busy life etc to seek medical help,” added Dip.
At the pilot launch, Marion Jones, 83, was one of the individuals to test Cytosponge.
Speaking after the procedure at Queen’s Hospital, she said: “The whole process was marvellous and I am blown away by the technology and the service I have received.
“I’ve had an endoscopy before, which I found difficult, but this procedure was completely different; it was just like swallowing an everyday tablet. I was awake throughout and the whole process lasted less than 15 minutes.”
The pandemic has caused a decrease in patients coming forward for diagnosis over the past year.
Dip said: “It’s a very personal thing for me because I see these patients every single day and have done for many years.
“I’ve certainly seen a change because we ask patients to stay at home and save lives; there’s been a reluctance to come up and seek help because of fear.
“The NHS is open and locally we’re open for business. Any concerns you must, must get yourself checked. You owe that to yourself and your family.
“If you’ve been put off because of Covid fear, I can tell you that these services are done in a protected environment and you are at no risk.
“That is done very rigorously with multiple layers of safety to keep you safe when you come to the hospital.”
Anyone suffering from indigestion, heartburn, or reflux who is concerned it could be something more serious should ask their GP to refer them for a Cytosponge test.
The capsule used during the procedure contains no animal products and is suitable for all religions.
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Tags: Romford, Havering, Queen's Hospital
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