Burning Away Cancer

FRESNO, Calif.

You can't tell by looking at him, but just a few years ago, Tom Geocaris's life went from normal to near-deadly.

"It started as progressional heartburn, maybe after big meals and holidays, and then, it became more frequent," Geocaris told Ivanhoe.

His acid reflux had developed into Barrett's esophagus. It's where the lining of the esophagus is damaged by stomach acid. If left untreated, the condition could turn into cancer.

"About a 300-fold increase in the risk of cancer in the esophagus in people with Barrett's esophagus," George Triadafilopoulos, M.D., a gastroenterologist from Stanford Hospital, told Ivanhoe.

In the past, Barrett's was often treated with surgery that included serious risks and side effects. Triadafilopoulos used a newer and less invasive approach -- to burn off Geocaris's pre-cancerous cells.

During the half-hour radio-frequency ablation procedure, a tool is inserted into the esophagus and touches the Barrett's tissue. Then, the balloon is inflated and releases energy, which literally burns the Barrett's away. The balloon is then deflated and removed with minimal complications or pain.

Until now, doctors took a "wait-and-see" approach with high-risk Barrett's patients to see if cancer would develop, but new recommendations say these patients can't afford to wait and should be treated immediately.

While Geocaris still has occasional heartburn, his Barrett's is gone, he's cancer free, and he's back to his normal routine.

"I feel pretty secure about the situation. Normal's pretty nice," Geocaris told Ivanhoe.

After the procedure, most patients still have to take medication to control their acid reflux. Doctors say if you have frequent heartburn, and your symptoms become significantly worse, it's a good idea to get it checked out. Radio-frequency ablation is covered by Medicare and some private health insurance plans.

Leslie Diehl
BÂRRX Medical®, Inc.
(408) 585-7750

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