Two studies published in Digestive Diseases and Sciences have demonstrated that an improved method for performing the standard upper endoscopy examination done on over eight million Americans with heartburn each year increases the detection of pre-cancerous cells in the esophagus by over 40 percent. ;Esophageal adenocarcinoma has increased by 600 percent over the last 25 years, making it the fastest growing form of cancer in the United States.It is also one of the most lethal of cancers, with a five year survival rate of less than 20 percent.
The two large nationwide multi-center studies found the addition of a specialized brush biopsy with computer-assisted laboratory analysis of the specimen to the standard upper endoscopy procedure, significantly increases the detection of both Barrett's esophagus and esophageal dysplasia (still-harmless, but pre-cancerous cells). This large increase in detection was found in the study that included academic centers and a second study that included community-based gastroenterology practices.
"Academic centers tend to perform numerous forceps biopsies on each of the high risk patients that they follow. Seeking dysplasia in a segment of Barrett's esophagus is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. The fact that the brush biopsy with computer-assisted tissue analysis was found to increase detection by over 40 percent in even these highly experienced esophageal GI specialty centers demonstrates the potential of this technique," said Sharmila Anandasabapathy, MD, chief of Endoscopy, The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York and lead author of the academic center study.
This large increase in detection was accomplished in just a few minutes, and with no increase in false positives or risk to the patient. When detected at this early, pre-cancerous stage, development of esophageal cancer can typically be prevented.