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An estimated 60 million people in the United States live with acid reflux with up to one-third of them experiencing symptoms daily. And while everyone will experience reflux occasionally, when it becomes a regular occurrence, it can be classified as gastroesophageal reflux disease.
GERD develops when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus more than twice a week. Heartburn is the most common symptom. However, not everyone with GERD experiences it. Other warning signs include:
- Coughing, choking or wheezing
- Chest pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Excessive belching or burping
- Hoarseness and voice changes
- Loss of tooth enamel and tooth decay
- Nausea after eating
- Sore throat
Left unchecked, GERD can lead to more severe health issues, including Barrett's esophagus, which can be a precursor to esophageal cancer. Esophageal adenocarcinoma is one of the very few cancers that we can GERD affects 20% of the American population. treating chronic acid reflux.
The American College of Gastroenterology recommends screening high-risk patients for Barrett’s esophagus before it progresses to esophageal cancer. Endoscopy is the traditional approach. But many patients are hesitant to go through invasive testing as a preventative measure.
The good news is, the GERD and Esophageal Cancer Center at AdventHealth Tampa offers EsoGuard diagnostic screening. The leading-edge procedure pairs a biomarker test with new technology for a five-minute, non-invasive screening that’s done in a physician’s office without sedation.
EsoGuard uses next-generation sequencing that finds precancerous cells in the esophagus. The procedure uses a device called an EsoCheck, a textured balloon about the size of a daily vitamin or gel capsule attached to a thin silicone catheter.
The patient swallows the EsoCheck that inflates when it reaches the stomach. Most patients experience little to no discomfort.
Once the placement is confirmed, the balloon is pulled back through the esophageal junction. Raised ridges on the surface pull together sample cells from the esophagus. Before removing the EsoCheck, negative pressure retracts the balloon into the capsule to protect the samples from contamination. Then, it’s placed into a preservation solution and transported to the testing facility. Results are typically ready in two to three weeks.
EsoGuard and EsoCheck were given Breakthrough Device Designation from the Food and Drug Administration in 2020, and initial screening results have been encouraging. Early clinical trials showed more than 90% sensitivity in identifying patients with Barrett’s esophagus and 90% specificity, meaning it correctly identified those who didn’t have it.
Patients must meet specific criteria before being scheduled for EsoGuard. The majority have a history of chronic reflux for at least five years and are 45 years of age or older.