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March 2012
News For You

Doctors Treat Pre-Cancerous Condition Stemming from Heartburn

There's no arguing the validity of medical protocols and over-the-counter remedies used to treat chronic heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). However, what has become more alarming is the likelihood of these ailments quietly developing into Barrett's esophagus a pre-cancerous condition that puts patients at a significantly higher risk for esophageal adenocarcinoma the most rapidly rising cancer in the United States.*

By the Numbers**

About 15 million Americans suffer from heartburn.

Those with heartburn are twice as likely to develop Barrett's esophagus.

Barrett's esophagus sufferers have a 1 in 20 chance of developing esophageal cancer, as compared to 1 in 500 for the general population.

Willis Parsons, MD, gastroenterologist and medical director of the GI Center at Northwest Community Hospital (NCH) explains how Barrett's esophagus forms. "The lining of the esophagus becomes damaged from long standing acid exposure and this predisposes patients to the development of abnormal tissue known as Barrett's esophagus," Parsons says. "Although acid-blockers and antacids can treat symptoms of heartburn, they cannot correct or eliminate the Barrett's tissue."

The good news is there is hope for patients with Barrett's esophagus. For more than five years, gastroenterologists at NCH have been using the latest technology in the treatment and ablation of Barrett's esophagus. Known as radiofrequency ablation (RFA) therapy, this non-surgical procedure uses electrodes to precisely remove or destroy the pre-cancerous tissue in the esophagus.

"Active treatment with radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is the most effective method to eliminate Barrett's esophagus and prevent it from progressing to a more serious stage like high-grade dysplasia or cancer," adds Parsons. "In comparison to alternative surgical and therapeutic approaches, the HALO procedure has yielded the highest success rates and is very safe."

The positive impact can be seen right here at NCH. To date, more than 200 RFA therapy cases have been performed at the Hospital using the BARRX HALO360 Ablation System. An estimated 90% of these cases are complete response, with post-procedure pathology revealing no evidence of any residual Barrett's.

The approach of using RFA to treat Barrett's esophagus is supported by the American Gastroenterological Association, which updated its position statement in March 2011. The Association encourages RFA therapy to be discussed as a shared decision for patients with confirmed low-grade dysplasia or at risk of progression of non-dysplastic Barrett's esophagus . For the treatment of high-grade dysplasia, RFA was also recommended in combination with endotherapy.

For more information about Barrett's esophagus and the use of radiofrequency ablation therapy at Northwest Community Hospital, physicians can contact Kathy Lamont, director of the GI Services, at 847.618.7265.

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Last Updated 03/15/2012