A new way to detect the beginnings of a potentially deadly cancer can be done in just minutes at a doctor’s office.

This year, 20,000 people will be told they have esophageal cancer. GERD is a chronic condition that causes acid reflux and heartburn which can be an early sign of esophageal cancer. David Brown is one of the first people in the United States to try out a new test to detect it.

Esophageal cancer claimed his father’s life. “Throughout my childhood he would be running to the restroom and vomiting. He became jaundiced due to liver metastasis, you know, from the esophageal cancer,” Brown said.

Brown himself already struggles with severe heartburn. “It was just a really bad stomachache that went on for days,” he explained. “A lot of people live with reflux, live with Barrett’s esophagus, live with a soft shield cancer, and they just don’t know it,” gastronenterologist Dr. Jason Samarasena said.

Until now the only way to detect esophageal cancer would be with an endoscopy, where patients are sedated, a flexible camera is fed through the mouth down to the stomach, a four to five hour procedure.

The new takes just seven minutes — without sedation. A capsule, the size of a multivitamin, is connected to a string. After the patient swallows it, the outer coating dissolves in their stomach, releasing an expandable sponge. The doctor then pulls the string.

“As we’re pulling on the string, the sponges touching the esophageal tissue and collecting cells, and it collects about 500,000 cells throughout the esophagus,” Dr. Samarasena said. The cells are then analyzed for any signs of cancer.

“I really do think this is a game changer for this disease,” Dr.Samarasena said.

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