While Covid-19 continues to impact all of our lives, we must also remember that other illnesses will not wait until the end of the pandemic. Cancer causes heartache for many families across our communities and early diagnosis is crucial.
This is why Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospital Trust are delighted to announce that the Trust has been chosen as part of a launch for a pioneering clinical pilot, which will save lives and diagnose early pre-cancerous conditions of the stomach and oesophagus.
The incredible pilot – Cytosponge – is a quick, safe and extremely effective test which does not require sedation. Patients simply swallow a capsule which is attached to a thread, the capsule then dissolves in the stomach and a small piece of sponge is released. The sponge is then removed by slowly pulling the thread and on removal it captures cells from the gullet which are sent for testing.
Cytosponge is an NHS England initiative and we are one of only a few Trusts across the country involved in the clinical pilot and currently the only Trust in North East London.
Dip Mukherjee, the Clinical Lead for Oesophagogastric Cancer and Upper Gastrointestinal Surgery, and North East London Cancer Alliance Pathway Director for Oesophagogastric Cancer, said: “I remember when this technique was envisioned more than 20 years ago and now it is reality, so I am extremely proud to be leading this pilot across North East London. Cancer of the gullet is rapidly rising but many people ignore the symptoms as they are very similar to indigestion or heartburn.
“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.
“Let us help you catch this cancer young and cure it early. If diagnosed at stage one, more than 95 per cent are cured. However, if diagnosed at stage four, it is very unlikely you will live more than two years. Please protect yourself and your family by getting checked.
“While our Trust is the first in the area to be involved in this clinical pilot after being successful in our bid, I hope to roll it out across North East London in the next six to eight months.”
At the pilot launch on Monday 22 March, one of the lucky people to receive a Cytosponge test was 83-year-old Marion Jones. 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.”
Comfort Osei, Lead Nurse for Cytosponge at the Trust, spoke of how proud she felt to be involved in this historical moment for Barking, Havering and Redbridge. Comfort said: “It is amazing to be involved in this clinical pilot and I feel very fortunate to be part of a wonderful team.
“Cytosponge will deliver an early diagnosis, which leads to quick treatment and a positive outcome. Our objective is to save lives and this service will certainly do this.”
When discussing the impact Cytosponge will have, Lynn Neeves, Gastroenterology Matron at our Trust and National Lead Nurse for the Bowel Cancer Screening Programme, said: “This simpler screening process will benefit patients and staff. It is less invasive than an endoscopy and as the test can be completed as an outpatient appointment, it will suit busy lifestyles.
“I must also praise the excellent team involved in setting this up at our Trust.”
Our Endoscopy Matron, Petra Edwards, also explained how Cytosponge will have a positive impact on those waiting to have an endoscopy. She said: “This clinical pilot will be brilliant for our patients in so many ways. One of which is how it will reduce the waiting time for an endoscopy as a Cytosponge test will determine whether a patient also needs an endoscopy, which is great news.”
If you suffer from indigestion, heartburn or reflux and are concerned it could be something more serious, please ask your GP to refer you for a Cytosponge test. The capsule used during the procedure contains no animal products and is suitable for all religions.