A Quick Test Could Spot Precursor to Esophageal Cancer


A pill-sized device that you swallow might help detect a change in the esophagus that can lead to a deadly form of cancer, researchers are reporting.

The esophagus is the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach. And the change that occurs in the esophagus, known as Barrett’s esophagus, usually results from long-term reflux. Barrett’s esophagus is considered a precursor to a type of cancer called esophageal adenocarcinoma.

More than 80 percent of people diagnosed with this cancer die within five years. Yet, medical experts say that many of these deaths could be prevented if people were diagnosed earlier with Barrett’s esophagus.

However, that usually requires a costly and invasive test, known as an endoscopy, that also requires sedation. According to the researchers, this prevents some people from being screened for the condition.

Screening with the new device could one day change that, the authors of the new study suggest.

“Our goal is early detection,” Dr. Amitabh Chak, a professor of medicine and researcher at Case Western Reserve Medical School in Cleveland, said in a university news release.

“Symptoms of Barrett’s esophagus, such as heartburn, can also be commonly seen in individuals who have acid reflux disease without Barrett’s esophagus. These symptoms can easily be treated by over-the-counter medications so people often don’t get tested for Barrett’s esophagus, particularly by an invasive test such as endoscopy,” Chak explained.

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SOURCE: Case Western Reserve University, news release, Jan. 17, 2018

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