A device the size of a vitamin pill could revolutionize the battle against deadly throat cancer by diagnosing patients before they develop the disease.
Patients diagnosed with esophageal cancer have only a 50 percent chance of surviving even when the cancer is detected at stage one, and this drops to just six percent if it is detected at later stages.
But cancer, which has nearly doubled among middle-aged adults in the past five years, has been linked to a type of acid reflux that starts years in advance.
Now, doctors at Lucid Diagnostics in New York City have developed a device that can detect precancerous cells in acid reflux patients, which could then be removed before the disease develops.
The graphic above shows how the innovative test that could detect cancer early works.
The technique involves placing a pill-like device, which is connected to a long, thin tube, down the throat and gently moving it to the stomach.
A small slotted balloon is then inflated and dragged a few centimeters up the throat to collect cells, before the device is removed.
According to doctors, the entire process takes about two minutes and can be performed on patients who have not been sedated.
The cells are then sent to a laboratory for testing for precancerous cells that could reveal the patient’s risk for the disease.
Those found to have early precancerous cells are asked to undergo cancer screening every three years, doctors said.
But those who have late precancerous cells, or those with more advanced mutations, receive treatment quickly to eliminate the cells.
This is usually done during an endoscopy, where high-energy radio waves are fired at precancerous cells to destroy them.
The test can be used in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), doctors said, and can also be used to diagnose esophageal cancer.
This disease affects about 3.3 million Americans each year, although most will not develop cancer.
About 22,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease each year, doctors say, while 16,000 die from the disease.
Overall, only 20 percent of patients survive more than five years after diagnosis, while for those whose cancer is diagnosed at a later stage, when it is more advanced, just six percent survive five years.
Doctors say the cancer is so deadly because it progresses quickly and is often not detected until later stages because it does not trigger symptoms at an early stage.
There is no recommended screening test for the disease, but it is recommended that GERD patients who have damage to the esophagus be screened once every three years.
Cancer patients tend to be men over 50 who may also be heavy smokers or drinkers.
The main way to detect cancer is through endoscopy, in which a doctor inserts a long tube with a camera on the end into a person’s mouth and lowers it into the stomach to look for abnormalities (file photo).
Dr. Lishan Aklog said his device could help detect at-risk patients and treat them before cancer arises.
Studies involving 400 firefighters in San Francisco showed the device was 90 percent accurate in diagnosing precancerous cells.
Firefighters are at higher risk for the disease because of the chemicals they are exposed to from firefighting foam and because they are more likely to drink heavily.
Once precancerous cells are diagnosed, patients may also be advised to lose weight or stop using cigarettes or alcohol to reduce the risk of the cells becoming cancerous.
Dr. Aklog said Fox News: ‘When there is fluid in the stomach, the acid reaches the lower part of the esophagus, where it does not belong.
“This causes cellular changes that can eventually evolve into full-blown cancer.”
The test, called EsoGuard, is now available in some states and has been granted breakthrough device designation by the Food and Drug Administration.
This means its approval has been accelerated and two major trials for the trial are currently underway.
It takes just five minutes and lab results are available within a few weeks.
There is no information on the cost, but doctors say that for most patients it is already covered by their health insurance.
Even when esophageal cancer is diagnosed, treatment options are limited, especially for more advanced cancer.
Patients may be offered surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but they often do not cure the cancer.
The test is now available in some states and has been performed tens of thousands of times, the company responsible for the test says.