Many of our Houston-area patients at TLC Surgery suffer from GERD. In addition to being an uncomfortable condition that makes it difficult to enjoy many of the foods they love, GERD can also be a sign of more serious conditions including esophageal cancer, which is often preceded by Barrett’s Esophagus. Now, with EsoGuard™, we can perform an easy test that helps diagnose esophageal precancer so that our patients can get the timely treatment they need.
What is GERD?
GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease. This is a condition caused when stomach acid frequently flows back into the esophagus from the stomach. This is known as acid reflux, and it can irritate the lining of the esophagus.
Acid reflux is a common condition, and when patients suffer from mild acid reflux at least twice a week or moderate reflux at least once a week, they are diagnosed with GERD. Up to 46% of American adults suffer from GERD. Symptoms of GERD include:
- Heartburn, usually after eating and at night
- Chest pain
- Trouble swallowing
- The feeling of a lump in the throat
- Chronic cough
- Sleep disruption1
Barrett’s Esophagus and Esophageal Cancer
In most patients, GERD is easily managed with over-the-counter medications and lifestyle changes. However, in some patients, GERD can lead to a narrowing of the esophagus, esophageal ulcers, and precancerous changes to the esophagus known as Barrett’s Esophagus.
Barrett’s Esophagus is associated with a higher risk of esophageal cancer, and often doesn’t produce symptoms. Esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC), or esophageal cancer, is rare and makes up only about 1% of cancer cases in the United States. However, cases of esophageal cancer are on the rise, increasing more than 733% over the past forty years. The five-year survival rate for esophageal cancer is about 20%, so it is important to closely monitor GERD patients for precancerous cells.2
Fewer than 10% of patients diagnosed with esophageal cancer pursue the testing that leads to a diagnosis with Barrett’s Esophagus before they are diagnosed with cancer. Using EsoGuard to diagnose Barrett’s Esophagus and the presence of precancerous cells in the esophagus, we are able to offer our patients increased monitoring and treatment before cancer develops.3
What is EsoGuard?
EsoGuard is a DNA test that uses samples of esophageal cells to detect abnormalities, including Barrett’s Esophagus and the presence of precancerous cells. No blood is drawn, and no needles are used. Cells are collected in a simple, five-minute procedure here at our office, then sent to a laboratory for analysis. Results are normally ready within three weeks.4
Patient What To Expect
The EsoGuard Sample Procedure
For testing with EsoGuard, your provider needs to collect sample cells from your lower esophagus for analysis. This procedure takes roughly five minutes.
First, your provider will confirm you haven’t eaten any solid foods in the last two hours. You will swallow a small gelcap-sized EsoCheck capsule which is attached to a catheter, which will be placed at the back of your throat. As you swallow, this capsule will be moved to your stomach. Your provider will confirm that the capsule is properly placed, then inflate the capsule and gently pull back the catheter to collect the cells. After pausing briefly to deflate, the provider will gently pull the capsule back through your esophagus and out of your mouth. The balloon portion of the catheter is cut off and placed in a preservative solution to be sent to the lab for analysis.5
Frequently Asked Questions About EsoGuard
Is testing with EsoCheck painful?
No. Most patients reported that swallowing the EsoCheck capsule was easy, and that they would recommend this procedure to others.6
Is EsoGuard expensive?
No. Most patients with medical insurance pay no out-of-pocket costs for EsoGuard.
Contact TLC Surgery
If you suffer from GERD or chronic heartburn, you may be at an increased risk for Barrett’s Esophagus and precancerous cells. To learn more about these conditions and schedule an EsoGuard examination, please contact our specialists in Houston, Texas.
1 Mayo Clinic. GERD. Available: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gerd/symptoms-causes/syc-20361940#:~:text=Gastroesophageal%20reflux%20disease%20(GERD)%20occurs,reflux%20from%20time%20to%20time.. Accessed May 19, 2022.
2 National Cancer Institute. Esophageal Cancer. Available: https://www.cancer.gov/pediatric-adult-rare-tumor/rare-tumors/rare-digestive-system-tumors/esophageal#:~:text=Esophageal%20cancer%20is%20a%20rare,esophageal%20cancer%20is%20more%20common. Accessed May 19, 2022.
3 Cleveland Clinic. Barrett’s Esophagus. Available: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/14432-barretts-esophagus. Accessed May 19, 2022.
4 Lucid Diagnostics. EsoGuard Patient Information. Available: https://www.esoguard.com/patients. Accessed May 19, 2022.
5 EsoCheck Patient Brochure. Available: EsoGuard Clinical Brochure. Accessed May 19, 2022.
6 Moinova HR, LaFramboise T, Lutterbaugh JD, Chandar AK, Dumot J, Faulx A, Brock W, De la Cruz Cabrera O, Guda K, Barnholtz-Sloan JS, Iyer PG, Canto MI, Wang JS, Shaheen NJ, Thota PN, Willis JE, Chak A, Markowitz SD. Identifying DNA methylation biomarkers for non-endoscopic detection of Barrett’s esophagus. Sci Transl Med. 2018 Jan 17;10(424):eaao5848. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aao5848. PMID: 29343623; PMCID: PMC5789768. Available: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29343623/. Accessed May 19, 2022.
The TLC Surgery Doctors have either authored or reviewed and approved this content.