Cytologic detection of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma and its precursor lesions using balloon samplers and liquid-based cytology in asymptomatic adults in Llinxian, China

Acta Cytol. Jan-Feb 2008;52(1):14-23. doi: 10.1159/000325430.


Objective: Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) is associated with very high regional mortality rates in several countries. Our initial test of esophageal cytology screening devices found them not sensitive enough for an early detection program. The current study tested a newly designed "mechanical" balloon and a traditional Chinese inflatable balloon, followed by liquid-based cytology, to detect biopsy-proven squamous dysplasia and early cancer.

Study design: Participants were randomized to a cytologic sampler, followed by endoscopy with iodine staining. For each patient, the cytologic diagnosis (test) was compared with the worst endoscopic biopsy diagnosis (truth).

Results: Seven hundred forty subjects completed both examinations. Approximately 30% showed atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASCUS), and 10% showed squamous intraepithelial lesions. Seven hundred twenty-five subjects (98%) had satisfactory biopsies, and 32% had low grade dysplasia or worse disease. Defining > ASCUS, favor neoplastic, as a positive screening test, the sensitivities/specificities of the mechanical and inflatable balloons were 39%/85% and 46%/84%, respectively, for detecting any squamous dysplasia or cancer.

Conclusion: These esophageal cell samplers performed equivalently, but the accuracy was still too low for a primary screening test. These results highlight the need to develop new cytologic criteria or molecular markers that can better detect early squamous esophageal disease [corrected]

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / epidemiology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • China / epidemiology
  • Cytological Techniques
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Esophagoscopy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Precancerous Conditions / diagnosis*
  • Precancerous Conditions / epidemiology
  • Precancerous Conditions / pathology