Researchers at the University of Cambridge claim to have come with a less-invasive alternative to endoscopy.
The endoscopy procedure is where medics insert a camera-enabled tube-like device down a patient’s throat to collect esophagus cells.
The new test, “cytosponge,” looks like a large multi-vitamin attached to a string. Patients swallow the capsule and then it expands into a sponge in the stomach within minutes. As the sponge is slowly pulled back out by the string, it gently collects cells from the esophagus wall.
According to the lead researcher, the sponge technique collects a more representative and comprehensive sweep of cells in the esophagus than an endoscopy. The cytosponge method is accurate to 80 to 90% of the time.
The cytosponge was tested on more than a thousand people. The trial results show that 94% of the patients who swallowed the sponge reported no serious side effects.
Researchers say patients who were not sedated for an endoscopy procedure were more likely to rate the cytosponge as a “preferable experience.”
Cytosponge will not only be a less-invasive test to screen for cancer, it will also cost a fraction of the cost of a traditional endoscopy. Scientists then examine the cells for protein associated with cancer.
A traditional endoscopy costs approximately $900 per procedure. While the sponge technique costs less than $100.
The Cancer Research UK believes the trial results to be encouraging. It is good news that there is a much similar and cheaper test that can replace endoscopy.
Doctors hope to start offering the sponge to patients in Britain sometime next year and plan to make it available in the United States within three years.