A new screening technique for one of the most deadly forms of oesophageal cancer has been trialled successfully.
Patients swallow a capsule attached to a length of string, which expands in the stomach into a 3cm wide sponge-like mesh.
Five minutes after being swallowed it is removed through the mouth by pulling the string.
The Cytosponge collects cells that are analysed in a laboratory for signs of the tissue changes typical of a pre-cancerous condition known as Barrett’s oesophagus.
Barrett’s oesophagus can occur in people with a history of heartburn and can lead to oesophageal cancer.
The British Medical Journal reports that scientists believe doctors using the sponge may be able to spot the warning signs and allow for earlier diagnosis, which could lead to more timely treatment and positive patient outcomes.
Currently, patients diagnosed with the cancer have a one in 10 chance of surviving for five years.
In a test of the device, doctors assessed 500 patients between the ages of 50 and 70 and found 3% had the condition.
An estimated 375,000 people develop Barrett’s oesophagus in the UK each year.
One in 10 of these patients will go on to develop oesophageal cancer.