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Innovative health technology helping patients

More than 5,000 procedures performed.

An innovative new procedure which speeds up cancer diagnosis has now benefitted more than 5,000 patients.

The cytosponge diagnostic service, introduced during the pandemic, means patients can access cancer checks closer to home, helping to reduce the strain on health services.  

Using cytosponge means that patients can get scope results by simply swallowing a small pill with a thread attached rather than using traditional scope methods and sedation. After swallowing the pill, it expands into a tiny sponge which is pulled back up the oesophagus, collecting cells on the way which are then examined for abnormalities. Cytosponge helps to identify important conditions such as Barrett’s oesophagus which is a known risk factor for oesophageal cancer. 

The procedure, which is supported by NHS Golden Jubilee’s Centre for Sustainable Delivery (CfSD), has now been used 5,036 times (to 3 November 2022) across Scotland.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said:

“The cytosponge is an excellent example of an innovative technology that allows people to access services quicker, and closer to home. It is helping to deliver better outcomes for patients, while also easing pressures at our hospitals. That’s why I am pleased to see it being used so widely.

“Cytosponge offers a simpler alternative to endoscopy procedures and takes only around 15 minutes. It is a much simpler and more patient-friendly test than endoscopy that enables faster diagnosis of patients at risk of pre or early cancer, without the need for them to undergo a more invasive procedure.

“Using this new technology means we can help tackle the waiting lists for endoscopy procedures that have arisen during the pandemic.”

Professor Jann Gardner, Chief Executive of NHS Golden Jubilee, said:

“In these challenging times, it is vital that we improve patient experience with faster diagnostic imaging, facilitating targeted treatments and improving long term outcomes. This cutting-edge technology has helped NHS Scotland advance cancer diagnosis and provide direct benefit to over 5,000 patients.  

“Cytosponge provides a better, more comfortable experience for patients, and we look forward to ensuring that even more people are treated this way as we continue to help meet the diagnostic demand resulting from the pandemic.” 


Unlike endoscopy procedures, where clinicians use a long, thin, flexible tube with a light and camera at one end to inspect organs inside the body, cytosponge is a non-Aerosol Generating Procedure (AGP) and can be performed outside of traditional hospital environments, such as community health centres or general outpatient clinics.


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