Heartburn Health Checks Rolled Out in Local GP Surgeries Following Success of Capsule Sponge Test

                                                                                  June 2023

Heartburn Health Checks are being rolled out by a number of GPs in the East of England, following the success of an innovative capsule sponge test developed in Cambridge.

The East of England Cancer Alliance successfully supported a bid that will see hundreds more checks delivered locally, to avoid longer waits for endoscopy tests in hospital and to detect conditions earlier that could be linked to oesophageal cancer.

The latest move will mean GPs in parts of Essex, Suffolk, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes contacting patients who have reported heartburn, indigestion or acid reflux, inviting them to a Heartburn Health Check at the surgery or community setting. This will include swallowing a capsule the size of a vitamin pill, containing a tiny sponge that expands and collects cells as it is gently removed using a thread attached. For more information see leaflets below.

Cells are then analysed in a laboratory to look for any sign of inflammation or cancerous changes.

Some people who have regular heartburn may develop a condition called Barrett’s oesophagus. This is when cells in the oesophagus (food pipe) change shape. People with Barrett’s have a slightly higher chance of developing oesophageal cancer. For more information visit www.heartburncanceruk.org/

Earlier detection improves patient experience and outcomes, in line with the East of England Cancer Strategy: www.cancer.org.uk/strategy

One of the reasons oesophageal cancer is so important to be aware of is that it does not usually cause any symptoms in the early stages, so it is often picked up late, when the cancer has grown bigger or already spread.

Thousands of people have already safely taken the capsule sponge test in their local community, thanks to mobile diagnostic units run by Heartburn UK, including in Cambridge, Chelmsford and Ely.

In the east of England, around 800 people die from oesophageal cancer every year – that’s about 15 people each week.

The new Heartburn Health Checks have been agreed as part of a successful cancer innovation bid called Cytoprime 2, delivering community-based clinics that build on the success of existing hospital services to help diagnose oesophageal cancer earlier.

Patient information leaflets​​​​​​ for Heartburn Health Checks are available on this page to download and print.


Animation on Heartburn Health Check