A new method of diagnosing and monitoring patients with Barrett’s oesophagus, a condition that develops into oesophageal cancer in around one in ten cases, has proven successful in recent trials.

The method of diagnosis involves a patient swallowing a Cytosponge capsule which is then removed by pulling the string. The sponge expands in the body, collecting cells on its way out.

The traditional method of diagnosis for oesophageal cancer, also known as cancer of the gullet, would usually involve a patient undergoing an endoscopy where a camera is inserted down the throat and a small sample of cells is extracted by biopsy.

The new method of diagnosis is much less invasive for patients and can be carried out in GP surgeries without sedation. Furthermore, while an endoscopy costs around £600 to perform, the considerably cheaper ‘sponge on a string’ test costs just £25.

Gwen Kirby-Dent, senior clinical negligence solicitor in Thompsons Solicitors’ Chelmsford office said: “Too often delays in diagnosis or misdiagnosis of cancer lead to devastating consequences for patients and their families.

“Around 8,500 new cases of oesophageal cancer are diagnosed each year, and early diagnosis is vital in ensuring patients receive the best possible care and treatment at the earliest opportunity.

“Many patients understandably find the prospect of a traditional endoscopy a daunting one which they would rather avoid. This new technique is far less invasive and could well serve to break down one aspect of the fear about seeking a diagnosis, while also delivering accurate and efficient results for conditions such as Barrett’s oesophagus or cancer of the gullet.”