Photo credit : World News

Cytosponge is the recent and effective replacement of endoscopy in the diagnosis of oesophagus cancer.

Patients at risk of oesophageal cancer are being given a new ‘sponge on a string’ test to make it possible to detect the earliest signs of the disease – enabling doctors to take steps to prevent it.

The one-minute technique, can be conducted by a GP or a nurse, and it pertains to swallowing a pill comprising a sponge-like material fastened to a
piece of thread.

As soon as it gets to the stomach, the pill dissolves and the sponge inside expands.

When it is being drawn out, it softly collects cells that line the oesophagus. The cells are then examined for pre-cancerous changes.

This ‘sponge on a string’ is known as the Cytosponge, it is an alternative to an endoscopy. An endoscopy involves passing a tube and camera are down the throat under local anaesthetic.

Endoscopies must be carried out in a hospital or specialist unit and the techniques are extremely uneasy.

The Cytosponge could make it possible to catch oesophageal cancer at its initial stages or before it even proceeds, dramatically boosting survival odds.

During preliminary trials, the test detect an early-stage cancer in Liz Chipchase, 72, who said: ‘It saved my life.’

Currently, approximately 9,200 Britons a year are diagnosed with the oesophagus cancer, and just 12 per cent overcome more than a decade from diagnosis.

The cancer kills over 7,000 people each year. Although age is the major threat factor, many cases are explained to be preventable because they are associated to smoking, alcohol and obesity.

A condition recognized as Barrett’s oesophagus – pre-cancerous alterations to the cells that line the lower part of the gullet – also increases the risk.

It is assumed that approximately four million Britons suffer from Barrett’s, although many are oblivious of it, and about one in ten could go on to induce oesophageal cancer.

It is believed to be stimulated by acid reflux, where acid ‘leaks’ back up into the oesophagus from the stomach. Over time, this can alter the cells that line the oesophagus.

While the cell alterations of Barrett’s itself do not result in symptoms, acid reflux does – mainly heartburn or chest pain, but also an awful taste in the mouth, a lasting cough, especially at night, issues swallowing, nausea and vomiting. Oesophageal cancer causes similar problems.

These indications should merit a referral for additional examinations which, formerly, would have entailed an endoscopy.

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