Health Alert | WCTV Eyewitness News: Tallahassee, Thomasville, Valdosta

Medical Minute 6-16: Burning Away Cancer

By: Vanessa Welch Email
By: Vanessa Welch Email

A normal day for Tom Geocaris consists of running, biking and arm exercises.

"I try to exercise as much as possible")

You can't tell by looking at him, but just a few years ago, Tom's life went from normal-- to near deadly.

"It started as progressional heartburn maybe after big meals and holidays, and then it became more frequent," said Tom Geocaris.

His acid reflux had developed into "Barrett's esophagus." It's where the lining of the esophagus is damaged by stomach acid. If left untreated the condition could turn into cancer.

"About a 300 fold increase in the risk of cancer in the esophagus in people with Barrett's Esophagus," said George Triadafilopoulos, MD
Gastroenterologist at Stanford Hospital.

In the past, Barrett's was often treated with surgery that included serious risks and side effects. This Stanford doctor used a newer and, less invasive approach-- to burn off Tom's pre-cancerous cells. During the half-hour "radio frequency ablation" procedure, this tool is inserted into the esophagus, and touches the Barrett's tissue. Then the balloon is inflated and releases energy-which literally burns the Barrett's away.

The balloon is then deflated and removed with minimal complications or pain. Until now doctors took a "wait-and-see" approach with high-risk Barrett's patients to see if cancer would develop-but new recommendations say these patients can't afford to wait and should be treated immediately. And while Tom still has occasional heartburn, his Barrett's is gone, he's cancer free, and he's back to his normal routine.

"I feel pretty secure about the situation. Normal's pretty nice."

For more information, contact John Cherry at (407) 691-1500, jcherry@ivanhoe.com.

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BACKGROUND: Barrett's esophagus is a precancerous condition of the esophagus that is caused by chronic acid reflux. If left untreated, Barrett's esophagus can become cancerous. With Barrett's, the lining of the esophagus (the tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach) is damaged by stomach acid. Barrett's esophagus occurs more often in men than in women. Patients who have had gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) for a long time are more likely to develop Barrett's.
(SOURCE: National Institutes of Health)

TREATING GERD: Treating GERD may help improve symptoms and may keep Barrett's esophagus from getting worse. Some lifestyle changes include avoiding dietary fat, chocolate, caffeine and peppermint; avoiding alcohol and tobacco; avoiding lying down after meals; losing weight; sleeping with the head of the bed elevated; and taking all medications with plenty of water. Medications that may relieve symptoms and control GERD include proton pump inhibitors, antacids, histamine H2 receptor blockers, and promotility agents. Anti-reflux surgery can help with symptoms of GERD, but it will not cause Barrett's esophagus to go away.
(SOURCE: National Institutes of Health)

TREATING BARRETT'S: Doctors used to take a "wait and see" approach with high-risk Barrett's patients to see if cancer would develop. Now, new recommendations suggest these patients should be treated immediately to avoid developing esophageal cancer. In the past, Barrett's was treated with an invasive surgery that posed serious risks and side effects. Now, a less-invasive approach, known as the HALO Ablation System, is being used. Recent studies have shown over 90 percent of patients with Barrett's esophagus who were treated with the HALO Ablation System have no residual Barrett's esophagus tissue after more than two years of follow-up. Compared to an esophagectomy, the HALO system is far less invasive. It is a radio frequency ablation procedure that burns away Barrett's. A tool is inserted into the esophagus and touches the Barrett's tissue. Then, the balloon is inflated and releases energy. The balloon is then deflated and removed. The procedure typically lasts about 30 minutes.

For More Information, Contact:

Leslie Diehl
BÂRRX Medical®, Inc.
(408) 585-7750
ldiehl@barrx.com


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