Posted: Apr 3, 2013 8:04 PM by Tara Oster - MTN News
Updated: Apr 3, 2013 8:04 PM
KALISPELL - The American Cancer Society gives patients a 38% survival five-year survival rate following completion of treatment for esophageal cancer; the disappointing survival rate causes concern among medical professionals.
Robert Yacavone, a gastroenterologist in Kalispell, explained, "Esophageal cancer has increased six-fold since 1975 and death rates from that disease have increased seven-fold in that same time interval. So this is a disease that as a medical community we're paying a lot of attention to."
A procedure available in Montana only at Kalispell Regional Medical Center prevents cancer from forming out of a precancerous tissue known as Barrett's Esophagus.
Yacavone said, "What we want is a procedure that can ablate the Barrett's tissue at the surface, but cause very minimal damage to the layers below that."
A procedure called radiofrequency ablation is designed to only cause a depth of injury of one millimeter in order to get rid of any precancerous tissue, and leave healthy tissue behind.
People at the highest risk for developing Barrett's esophagus are those with frequent heartburn; Yacavone said, "Or if they've had heartburn for a long portion of their life - greater than six months to a year, greater than five years or so - that a good number of those patients will have Barrett's tissue that has developed."
But with early detection, in more than 90% of cases, Barrett's tissue can be successfully destroyed and does not come back.