For COVID testing, make an appointment at an Urgent Care or QuickCare location or visit hhs.gov.
If you have a medical emergency, visit one of our Emergency Departments.

Media Room

For more information or to schedule an interview, email us.

Non-Invasive Esophageal Cancer Screening Now Available in Athens

Athens, GA (June 20, 2022)— Patients suffering from frequent heartburn or acid reflux are at a higher risk of developing esophageal cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute Center for Cancer Research, esophageal adenocarcinoma, the most common form of esophageal cancer, is often linked to a condition called Barrett’s Esophagus, which is believed to affect about one percent, or approximately 3.3 million, of people in the U.S. Esophageal cancer is often not found until it is advanced, but it can be treated successfully if it is found early through screenings. Early detection saves lives, and this screening technology can identify pre-cancerous cells that can be effectively eradicated.

Eric Bour, M.D., a surgeon at Piedmont Athens Regional with a special interest in treating patients with Barrett’s Esophagus, GERD (heartburn), and other foregut disorders, is the first physician in the Athens area to offer a non-invasive, in-office test to screen for cancerous and pre-cancerous cells in the esophagus.

"Patients with GERD not only have to worry about the day-to-day aspects of living with chronic acid reflux, they also worry about the long-term negative health risks," said Dr. Bour. "A screening test that is completed in the office helps us identify areas of concern early, and then we create targeted plans to address those concerns."

The screening is simple and can take as little as five minutes. The patient swallows a small capsule attached to a tiny catheter. The capsule holds a small balloon, which the doctor inflates once it is in the patient’s stomach. The balloon is texturized with ridges that collect cells as the balloon is pulled through the lower part of the esophagus and then is deflated prior to coming out of the mouth. The balloon is then sent to a lab where the cells are examined for DNA abnormalities.

"Previously, to get esophageal cell samples from numerous areas of the esophagus, I would perform an endoscopy, which required a lot from the patient; taking time off, being given anesthesia, and needing someone to drive the patient to and from the appointment," said Dr. Bour. " While endoscopies are still a great tool and one that we will still use, for many patients, I can do this screening right in my office, in about five minutes, and soon I have the test results back and the patient and I are making decisions on treatment."

The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 20,000 Americans will be diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2022. Many patients treat their heartburn symptoms with prescription or over-the-counter medications, and because they believe their symptoms are under control, they fail to consider their cancer risk.

"This five-minute test is going to save lives," said Dr. Bour. "It’s going to save the lives of our family, our friends, and our neighbors here in Athens."

Dr. Bour encourages anyone who has heartburn symptoms or is taking medications to relieve heartburn symptoms, whether prescription or over-the-counter, to get screened for esophageal disease. To schedule an appointment online with Dr. Bour for EsoGuard testing, click here or call 706-425-1400; patients do not need a referral to schedule an appointment. 

Back to Top

Piedmont App

Download the Piedmont Now app

  • Directions
  • Indoor Hospital Navigation
  • Find & Save Physicians
  • Online Scheduling

Download the app today!

Get the Piedmont Now on Google Play Get the Piedmont Now on iTunes App Store