The Cytosponge test is a short procedure that can take place in a regular GP surgery with the help of a nurse or a GP. The aim of the test is to help detect the condition of Barrett’s Oesophagus. Patients diagnosed with this condition are advised to have regular check-ups due to a slightly increased risk of cancer of the oesophagus (also known as the food pipe or gullet).
Patients who have had gastroesophageal reflux disease (also known as acid reflux) symptoms for a long time have a higher chance of developing Barrett’s Oesophagus. Therefore, they are invited to take the Cytosponge test.
The Cytosponge is a sponge shaped like a sphere that is compressed within a gelatine capsule. The capsule is around 2 centimetres long – the size of a 20 pence coin – and is attached to a string. The capsule is swallowed while the nurse holds onto the string.
After 5 to 7 minutes, the capsule dissolves in the stomach, allowing the sponge to expand. Once that time is up, the nurse pulls the sponge from the stomach through the oesophagus to the mouth. This only takes one or two seconds.
The sponge will now contain cells from the inner lining of the oesophagus. The sponge will then be sent to a lab. In the lab, the sponge is tested to detect signs of Barrett’s Oesophagus. After a few weeks, the results are sent back to the GP who will discuss them with the patient.