WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — April is Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month. This type of cancer can be difficult to detect in its earliest stages. Now, there’s a relatively new tool aimed at minimizing your risk of cancer of the esophagus.
The American Cancer Society estimates nearly 17,000 cases of esophageal cancer will be diagnosed this year with more than 15,000 deaths. Many cases result from Barrett’s Syndrome which is a condition that can become cancerous after prolonged acid reflux damage. But a local doctor credits a relatively new procedure to provide encouraging results.
What you’re witnessing is the demonstration of a BARRX procedure. In medical speak, it’s radiofrequency ablation. Doctors insert through a patient’s mouth a thin tube, or catheter, which contains at the end electrodes on the outer surface. For doctors who need to remove abnormal tissue from the lining of a patient’s esophagus, this technique is a game changer. “We will go ahead and burn that tissue off with the radiofrequency waves,” said Commonwealth Health Gastroenterologist Aman Ali, MD.
Dr. Ali uses BARRX with its high definition imaging to see changes in a patient’s esophagus lining then treat that damaged lining — even cutting out entire tumors. Compare that to traditional methods that patients with esophagus problems had to endure when they were diagnosed with cancer. “They were going anywhere from every three months to every one year… scopes where they go in and take biopsies,” said Dr. Ali.
If surgery was needed, the traditional method called an esophagectomy could be quite complicated. Dr. Ali said, “They will have to have a cutting through the rib cage and it’s a very invasive procedure on a good day.”
Before BARRX, the outcome of the traditional procedure was also radically different, often impacting what a person could eat or even the position they might lie in. Dr. Ali has performed the BARRX Procedure on hundreds of patients with so many positive outcomes. “No cutting, no scar. Everything is done through the scope. What we are able to achieve is to prevent the patient from undergoing far more invasive surgery which could be life threatening at times.”
Dr. Ali recommends anyone older than 45 with a history of acid reflux get a screening to see if they have Barret’s Syndrome – and if they do — there’s a high tech option to avoid a very invasive procedure.