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The camera in the loo that spots bowel cancer

UK News

A high-tech camera that clips onto the loo could speed up the detection of bowel cancer.

Resembling a toilet freshener, the device uses cutting-edge imaging techniques to scan stools in the bowl for traces of blood — a sign of the disease.

Findings are transmitted to an app on the user’s smartphone, which uses an artificial intelligence algorithm to provide results within minutes that can automatically be shared with a doctor.

Resembling a toilet freshener, the device uses cutting-edge imaging techniques to scan stools in the bowl for traces of blood — a sign of the disease. A stock image is used above [File photo]

Resembling a toilet freshener, the device uses cutting-edge imaging techniques to scan stools in the bowl for traces of blood — a sign of the disease. A stock image is used above [File photo]

If warning signs are identified, more detailed investigations may be recommended such as a colonoscopy, where a thin, flexible probe with a camera on the end is used to look for signs of cancer in the bowel.

Initial results suggest the gadget is up to 90 per cent accurate at spotting bleeding.

Bowel cancer kills around 16,000 people a year in the UK; one in 20 will develop the disease in their lifetime and it is more common in the over-50s.

Blood in stools is one of the most common symptoms, caused by a growing tumour damaging tiny blood vessels in the bowel.

The earlier bowel cancer is caught, the greater the chances of survival. More than 90 per cent of patients diagnosed at the earliest stage (stage one) are alive after five years, compared to just 10 per cent of those diagnosed at stage four (when the cancer has spread), according to Cancer Research UK.

For this reason, everyone aged 60 to 74 is invited to carry out a bowel cancer screening test at home every two years. 

This involves sending a stool sample — a faecal immunochemical test (FIT) — for analysis. Results take around two weeks and if blood is found, patients undergo further investigations.

But some people find the testing process unpleasant and research suggests the kits only identify 70 per cent of tumours. Although the idea of the technology may fill some people with horror, the new clip-on camera could be a more acceptable and accurate way to identify warning signs and allow for daily monitoring that could pick up problems much sooner.

Bowel cancer kills around 16,000 people a year in the UK; one in 20 will develop the disease in their lifetime and it is more common in the over-50s

Bowel cancer kills around 16,000 people a year in the UK; one in 20 will develop the disease in their lifetime and it is more common in the over-50s

To use the device, patients must first switch on the app on their smartphones before going to the loo. This automatically connects with the clip-on camera, which scans the stools in the bowl using a process called multispectral optical imaging.

This generates many more wavelengths of light than can be seen with the human eye, producing a 3D image rather than just a picture of the surface.

The idea is this detects hidden spots of blood in faecal matter that are too small to be seen with the naked eye or that are not on the surface. The user can then share this information with their doctor.

The maker of the device, called OutSense, says it detects nine out of ten cases where blood is present in a stool sample, although these results have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal. It hopes to seek approval for the device in the UK in the next two years.

David Crosby, head of prevention and early detection research at Cancer Research UK, says: ‘This device is an interesting piece of technology, which could allow people to spot early changes to their bowel health, prior to the onset of symptoms. But it is at an early stage of development and we need peer-reviewed evidence to show that it works.’

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Warts to be removed with vitamin D jab

Vitamin D injections could offer a new way to eradicate warts, with around 60 patients at the Mayo Clinic in the U.S. taking part in a new trial of the treatment.

Warts and verrucas are caused by strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV). Although they usually disappear spontaneously, this process can take several months, or sometimes even years, and many patients seek treatment because of their appearance.

It’s thought that vitamin D, which will be injected directly into the wart, will boost the immune system response in the area to kill off the wart.

Ultrasound used for risky clots

Ultrasound ‘micro drills’ are being tested as a way to tackle older, dense blood clots.

Blood-thinning medications don’t work as well for these clots as they are less porous, so the drugs can’t get inside them.

Scientists from North Carolina State University in the U.S. have developed a technique where tiny particles containing a special liquid are inserted via a catheter into the clot. Then a tiny ultrasound drill (that’s also inserted via the catheter) turns the liquid into gas — the gas bubbles vibrate and destroy the clot from the inside.

The technology has been tested in laboratory studies, and the scientists hope to start animal trials soon, reports the journal Microsystems and Nanoengineering.

Hot baths can improve low mood

Hot baths work faster than exercise in treating depression, according to research from Freiburg University, Germany.

In an eight-week trial, 45 patients had twice weekly hot baths or exercise sessions, which are known to help with depression by releasing mood-boosting hormones. 

The study, published in BMC Psychiatry, found that depression symptoms dropped by 30 per cent after two weeks for those taking baths; it took six to eight weeks for exercise to have the same effect.

The thinking is that raising body temperature causes changes in the body clock (known to be altered in people with depression). The researchers believe hot baths may help those with mild depression, but more research is needed.

Hot baths work faster than exercise in treating depression, according to research from Freiburg University, Germany [File photo]

Hot baths work faster than exercise in treating depression, according to research from Freiburg University, Germany [File photo]

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