A sponge-on-a-string pill test could transform the way oesophageal cancer is diagnosed, researchers say. The method can identify 10 times more people with Barrett’s oesophagus than the usual GP route, scientists say.
The test, which can be carried out by a nurse in the GP surgery, is also better at picking up abnormal cells and potentially early-stage cancer.
Barrett’s oesophagus is a condition that can lead to oesophageal cancer, cancer of the food pipe, in a small number of people. Normally it is diagnosed in hospital by endoscopy, which involves passing a camera down into the stomach, following a GP referral for long-standing heartburn symptoms.
The cytosponge test, developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge, is a small pill with a thread attached that the patient swallows. It expands into a small sponge when it reaches the stomach, and is then quickly pulled back up the throat by a nurse, collecting cells from the oesophagus for analysis.
The pill is a quick, simple and well tolerated test that can be performed in a GP surgery and helps tell doctors who needs an endoscopy. In turn, this could prevent many people from having potentially unnecessary endoscopies.
Scientists say that as well as better detection, the test means cancer patients can benefit from kinder treatment options if their cancer is caught early enough.
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Source: The Independent, 1 August 2020