Patients and staff at Kettering General Hospital are supporting important research into new ways of diagnosing cancer.
One aspect of that work is a pilot study being undertaken across the country on the use of the Cytosponge, a new way of carrying out testing for cancer of the oesophagus.
Dr Muthi Kasimanickham is leading on testing at KGH where, since November 2021, there have been about 60 patients who have had the procedure and are taking part in the pilot.
Dr Kasimickham said: “The Cytosponge is a cell collection device that collects tissue samples from the oesophagus with one simple procedure.
“It uses a small capsule-shaped device the size of a multivitamin which is attached to a thin string.
“The patient swallows the capsule and waits for 7 minutes and 30 seconds for the capsule coating to dissolve releasing a sponge which expands.
“In a few seconds the sponge is then carefully pulled up and collects cells from the entire length of your oesophagus before being extracted and the sample is sent away for tests.
“This enables us to quickly and easily test patients who have problems such as acid reflux and see if there is any damage that could lead to pre-cancerous, or cancerous, conditions.
“It is very easy to carry out, and doesn’t need an operating theatre, so if it proves to be successful it could be rolled out to GP surgeries and health centres and make testing for these conditions much easier across the whole country.”
Pat Maunders, 64, from Rushden, had been suffering from acid reflux and chest pain for months and medication from her GP was not resolving the problem.
In November 2021 she was referred on for further routine investigation to KGH and was found to be suitable for the Cytosponge pilot being carried out by NHS England at hospitals across the country.
Mrs Maunders, said: “Overall it was a very quick procedure and there was no pain or discomfort and nothing to be afraid of.
“It is less intrusive and quicker than having a gastroscopy tube camera investigation under sedation and I was happy to have it instead and support the NHS research.”
Mrs Maunders had the Cystosponge test in December 2021 and the results showed abnormalities.
"She then had a gastroscopy test to confirm her diagnosis of cancer of the oesophagus.”
Mrs Maunders is now receiving treatment for her cancer including chemotherapy.
She said: “It was a shock but I am now receiving treatment and I know what is wrong with me and I know what needs to be done.”
KGH lead nurse for the pilot, Matthew Courtman-Maddalo, said: “The new procedure is quick and easy.
"We have half-an-hour slots for patients but it actually only takes about 10 minutes to perform the procedure from start to finish.
“There is no need for sedation and people can leave right away after the test and go home.”
Mrs Maunders case study is supporting work by NHS England to highlight the vast amounts of pioneering research being undertaken by the NHS into cancer.