Often dismissed as a little acid reflux or heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) affects 44 percent of adults in the United States. For some of those, their GERD can be resolved by antacids, changes in diet and a healthier lifestyle. But, for others GERD can lead to Barrett’s Esophagus, a condition which significantly raises the patient’s risk of esophageal cancer. Suddenly, GERD doesn’t seem so harmless.
While only a small percentage of patients with GERD will develop Barrett’s, but when a patient is diagnosed with it, doctors keep a close watch out for the emergence of cancer. Traditionally, Barrett’s has been treated by removing tumors of the esophagus with combinations of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and photo dynamic therapy (PDT ). But now there is an alternative approach that is less invasive and has fewer side effects. With radiofrequency ablation (RFA), doctors guide a balloon-type device to the affected site and trigger a radio frequency signal to slough off the malignant or precancerous cells.
“RF Ablation is so well tolerated now that we can safely offer it to a great many patients with Barrett’s Esophagus,” said the Director of Endoscopy at Emory Healthcare, Field Willingham, MD, MPH.
Major surgery is still not uncommon among late stage esophageal cancer patients. But when the cancer is caught early it can now often be successfully removed using radiofrequency ablation.
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