A high-tech UK 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.
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.
Blood in stools is one of the most common symptoms, caused by a growing tumour damaging tiny blood vessels in the bowel.
Currently NZ patients aged between 60-74 are sent home screening kits and if blood is found, patients undergo further investigations.
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.’
Detection of blood in faeces can also indicate haemorrhoids, diverticulitis, Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis - not just bowel cancer.