In recent years cancer of the esophagus has surpassed the prevalence of some commonly known types of cancer such as that of the breast and colon. One common disorder that often leads to cancer of the esophagus is a condition called Barrett's Esophagus. More common in people over 50 and often white males, Barrett's Esophagus is a condition that changes the lining of the food pipe over a period of time. This damage is often caused by frequent heartburn or acid reflux over a period of five years or longer.
There's now a procedure available at Rush Hospital that can actually eliminate Barrett's Esophagus before it turns cancerous.
¶"The patient is fully, fully sedated with deep sedation. They don't feel a thing," says Doctor Paul Varela, who is a gastroenterologist at Rush Hospital.
Lasting about 30 minutes gastroenterologist, Dr. Varela, says the procedure scrapes away the damaged tissue by inflating a special balloon inside the esophagus.
"So obviously we need to rescope the patient in about two months. Two months later is kind of some type of mopping up type of procedure just getting rid of what's left behind."
It is generally in this second procedure when he says all of the damaged tissue is removed, the Barrett's Esophagus is gone and the patient's chances of developing cancer of the esophagus drastically drops.
"The thing that we keep emphasizing is that it is safe, affective, done by doctors that know what they're doing.."
Because Barrett's Esophagus is not generally something doctors test for without very obvious reasons, Dr. Varela says it's important for patients who have persistent acid reflux or heartburn to request the test. Ultimately, he says diagnosing Barrett's Esophagus early can possibly save a patient from developing cancer of the esophagus later.