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Cellvizio® technology spots esophageal cancer in its earliest stage

April 2, 2019

While living in Palatine for about a decade, Dennis and Susan Atkinson had relied on NCH for all of their healthcare needs. About five years ago, Dennis, now 71, decided he was tired of experiencing acid reflux and indigestion. He wanted to do something about it and remembered that Susan had undergone a colonoscopy and endoscopy with Willis Parsons, M.D. at the recommendation of Gastroenterologist Kyoko Misawa, M.D.

“It planted a seed in my mind to have my reflux checked,” Dennis recalls.

Dr. Misawa had noticed that Dennis’ esophagus was very inflamed as she performed an endoscopy that detected cancer cells. She quickly helped Dennis to schedule an appointment with Dr. Parsons.

“Within days, I went in for my first procedure with him,” Dennis recalls. “His process, as it was explained to me was that he would go in and essentially ‘scoop out’ sections of the esophageal lining in the most inflamed areas and check all the margins in the samples that he took.”

Dennis was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and Barrett’s esophagus. Fortunately, because it was caught early enough, Dr. Parsons was able to remove cancerous cells and then use an advanced technology called Cellvizio®, a probe-based live microscope that can target biopsies.

“Esophageal cancer is fast growing, but it can be cured when caught at an early stage,” Dr. Parsons says. “Cellvizio magnifies tissue up to 1,000 times so physicians can view tissue at a cellular level. Since 2015, Cellvizio has helped 178 patients at NCH.”

Dennis had an endomucosal resection (the removal of esophageal cancer through a “scoop out” method) and follow-up upper endoscopies with the use of Cellvizio technology on six occasions.

“Dr. Parsons describes himself as being very aggressive in his treatment,” Dennis says. “My experience with him has been very positive.”

Good health continues with periodic checks

Dennis continues to undergo procedures to check for and remove any potential cancer in the esophagus. He is approaching the five-year mark since his diagnosis, and he’s now on a lower dose of medication, which he takes prior to dinner to control his GERD.

“In the past, I frequently woke up with a lot of acid reflux and that’s rare at this point,” Dennis says. “I watch what I eat because high acid foods like tomatoes and some citrus will tend to give me more discomfort and indigestion.”

He and Susan have since retired and moved to Georgia, and even though Dr. Parsons referred Dennis to a physician at a hospital near their home, he prefers to return to NCH for follow-ups with Dr. Parsons.  

“He was the one whose treatment saved my life,” Dennis says. “Everybody in his office has been extremely helpful and very effective. In every way, Dr. Parsons’ office staff, as well as the hospital, has been outstanding.”

The follow-up procedure to check for cancer is painless, minimally invasive and takes less time than the flight from Atlanta to Chicago.

Dennis’ wife says that while she recognizes the weight of the disease, she’s been able to learn more about it through Dr. Parsons’ careful explanations.

“Dr. Parsons’ genuine concern really made a lot of difference for us going through this process,” Susan says. “This is generally a cancer that doesn’t end well, but Denny just happened to catch it early.”

See more information on NCH’s award-winning GI Program.