Background: The efficacy of endoscopic screening for chronic gastroesophageal reflux symptoms of heartburn and regurgitation in adult subjects depends on the sensitivity of this strategy for detecting Barrett esophagus in subjects before the development of adenocarcinoma of the esophagus or cardia. The aim of the current study was to determine what proportion of patients with cancer of the esophagus or cardia would have been candidates for a screening endoscopy before their cancer diagnosis based on the presence and duration of preceding reflux symptoms.
Methods: All patients with adenocarcinoma of the esophagus, adenocarcinoma of the cardia, or long-segment Barrett esophagus presenting for endoscopy at 4 tertiary care and 2 Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals were given a previously validated questionnaire to determine their recall of common gastroesophageal reflux symptoms.
Results: The study population of 375 subjects consisted primarily of 294 (78%) white men. Only 67 of 110 patients (61%) with adenocarcinoma of the esophagus and 8 of 21 patients (38%) with adenocarcinoma of the cardia recalled symptoms of heartburn or regurgitation being present for >5 years before their diagnosis of cancer. Only 40 of 110 patients (36%) with adenocarcinoma of the esophagus and 5 of 21 patients (24%) with adenocarcinoma of the cardia recalled weekly symptoms being present for >5 years before their cancer diagnosis. Of the 244 patients with Barrett esophagus, 170 (70%) recalled heartburn or regurgitation for >5 years and 89 patients (37%) recalled weekly symptoms for >5 years.
Conclusions: Current practice, which uses a screening strategy of performing endoscopy in patients with >5 years of heartburn or regurgitation, can detect Barrett epithelium in only a limited proportion of those patients at risk for developing adenocarcinoma of the esophagus or adenocarcinoma of the cardia.
(c) 2006 American Cancer Society.