Barrett’s esophagus affects nearly two million Americans and is the leading cause of esophageal cancer. “Esophageal cancer is one of the fastest growing and deadly forms of cancer in the United States today,” explains Dr. Brian Blumenstein, board-certified gastroenterologist at Little Company of Mary. The cancer has a five-year survival rate of less than 20% in advanced stages.
But there is hope. Little Company of Mary Hospital and Health Care Centers has a powerful new tool to treat patients with Barrett’s esophagus, a pre-cancerous condition associated with chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The hospital’s new HALO 360 Ablation Therapy System uses radiofrequency energy to “ablate” or destroy pre-cancerous tissue of the esophagus that, if left untreated, can lead to deadly esophageal cancer.
Michael Grochowski, 62, of Bridgeview watched two cousins die from esophageal cancer just months after they were diagnosed. “They didn’t know they had any problems until it was too late,” he said. Grochowski, who has suffered with GERD for nearly 20 years, was diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus about 10 years ago. Immediately, he became concerned that it could develop into cancer of the esophagus.
For years, doctors of patients with Barrett’s esophagus took a traditional “wait-and-see” approach. Grochowski himself has undergone yearly endoscopies of the upper gastrointestinal tract for nearly a decade. “It was a little like playing Russian roulette,” Grochowski said.
Then, earlier this year, Dr. Blumenstein told Grochowski about the new HALO procedure at Little Company of Mary. A minimally invasive technique, HALO can safely remove abnormal Barrett’s cells before they progress to life-threatening esophageal cancer.
New HALO Treatment Offers Hope
Radiofrequency ablation is a technique in which tissue is heated and burned away until it is no longer viable. Physicians have used various forms of ablation for nearly a century to treat a number of cancerous and pre-cancerous conditions.
“Radiofrequency ablation allows us to destroy and remove the diseased tissue without harming healthy, underlying structures of the esophagus,” Dr. Blumenstein explained. “There’s minimal scarring, and the risk for complications is very low.”
The HALO ablation procedure is performed in conjunction with upper endoscopy and is done on an outpatient basis. (The procedure treats only the Barrett’s esophagus, not the underlying condition of acid reflux or GERD.) Most patients undergo two to three treatments over the course of several months until the diseased tissue is eradicated. The HALO procedure effectively eliminates Barrett’s disease in 90 to 100 percent of patients.
In 2011, the American Gastroenterological Association issued new guidelines that support the use of radiofrequency ablation for individuals with Barrett’s esophagus.
For more information about the HALO radiofrequency ablation procedure at Little Company of Mary Hospital and Health Care Centers, call 1-866-540-LCMH (5264) or read the full news release.