- Eastern Long Island Hospital (ELIH) announces a new outpatient treatment that destroys pre-cancerous tissue in the lining of the esophagus. The procedure, endoscopic radiofrequency ablation therapy using the HALO System, was recently featured in the New England Journal of Medicine as a highly effective treatment for complete eradication of Barrett's esophagus, a pre-cancerous condition that affects one to two million adults in the United States each year.
According to Dhiren Mehta, MD
, a board certified gastroenterologist on the medical staff at ELIH, who is specially trained in the ablation therapy, Barrett's disease occurs when the esophagus is chronically exposed to gastric contents of the stomach caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly known as GERD. With prolonged acid exposure, normal cells in the esophagus can undergo a genetic change and are then vulnerable to further changes that can lead to cancer.
Individuals with Barrett's esophagus have a 40 to 130 times higher incidence of developing esophageal cancer than those without the condition. Esophageal cancer is presently the fastest growing form of cancer in the United States.
"The main purpose of the ablation procedure is to ablate, or remove the abnormal lining of the esophageal," says Dr. Mehta. "The tissue then regenerates and normal tissue grows back. This eliminates or markedly reduces the chances of cancer developing."
The procedure is performed in an outpatient setting, without incisions, and takes 30 minutes on average. For a person with Barrett's disease, Dr. Mehta says the risk of developing esophageal cancer is similar to the risk of developing colon cancer for patients who have a colon polyp. However, unlike a colon polyp which is removed immediately upon diagnosis through a colonoscopy, prior to the availability of the HALO System, the standard
treatment for Barrett's disease was "watchful waiting" or surveillance to monitor the progression of the disease.
According to Dr. Mehta, esophageal cancer is often uncurable because the disease is frequently discovered in the advanced stages. Esophageal cancer has a five-year patient survival rate of just 16 percent.
"It usually starts with GERD, which can cause Barrett's disease, which can lead to esophageal cancer," says Dr. Mehta. "That's why it's important to seek medical treatment for symptoms of GERD, the most common being heartburn."
More than 61 million Americans experience heartburn at least once a month, and 15 million have heartburn every day. And although GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is this common, it often goes unrecognized - its symptoms misunderstood.
You can have GERD without having heartburn. Your symptoms could be excessive clearing of the throat, problems swallowing, the feeling that food is stuck in your throat, burning in the mouth, or pain in the chest.
The esophagus, unlike the stomach, does not have a protective lining, so when it is exposed to the acid, it can become inflamed and painful. In addition, tissue damage, or scarring on the esophagus can narrow the esophagus and make swallowing difficult. Acid reflux can lead to pre-cancerous conditions such as Barrett's Esophagus, cause permanent scarring of the esophagus, or create serious throat and lung conditions, making proper treatment of reflux important to your health.
This April is Esophageal Cancer awareness month, if you suffer from symptoms such as chronic cough, persistent heartburn or acid reflux, regurgitation of food, sore throat, or hoarseness in your voice, you may be a risk. Only one out of 20 people know they have it. This month take the time to consult your primary care doctor or gastroenterologist about a screening and take the opportunity to make a change in your life or to even change another.
For more information, click here.