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The American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) has released a medical position statement that recommends against using endoscopy for the screening of patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). These results were recently published in the journal Gastroenterology.

GERD, also referred to as heartburn, is a condition in which the acidic contents of the stomach back up into the esophagus (the tube that connects the throat to the stomach). GERD may be responsible for the irritation of tissues of the esophagus, a condition referred to as Barrett?s esophagus. Ultimately, chronic GERD and Barrett’s esophagus may be associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer.

The AGA is a medical association comprised of physicians that specialize in gastroenterological disorders, which include conditions of the esophagus, such as GERD and esophageal cancer. Researchers have been evaluating ways in which to screen for esophageal cancer so that the disease may be caught and treated early, in its most curable stages.

Members of the AGA recently evaluated data involving patients with GERD and screening for esophageal cancer, including the use of endoscopy. Endoscopy is a procedure in which a lighted tube is advanced through the mouth, esophagus and stomach. The data evaluated was obtained from literature searches regarding screening practices and outcomes among patients with GERD.

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Overall, no survival was demonstrated among patients undergoing screening endoscopy.

The majority of patients diagnosed with esophageal cancer had not received a prior diagnosis of GERD. As a result, the AGA concluded that screening endoscopy is not a necessary precaution for individuals with GERD. Guidelines for the management of GERD consisted mainly of pharmaceutical drugs, surgery and/or lifestyle modification.

Patients with GERD should speak with their physician regarding their individual risks and benefits of screening and treatment for their condition, as guideline recommendations are not tailored to the individual.

Reference: Hiltz S, et al American Gastroenterological Association Medical Position Statement on the Management of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. Gastroenterology 2008; 135: 1383-1391.