New Outpatient Treatment for Heartburn-Related Problem Stops Esophageal Cancer Before It Starts

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Barrett's is a heartburn-related problem that damages the esophagus after repeated exposure to stomach acid. Barrett's sufferers are 125 times more likely to develop cancer of the esophagus, and such cases are rising faster than breast cancer, prostate cancer and melanoma. "Fortunately there's a new outpatient treatment for Barrett's that stops the cancer before it starts," said Dr. Willis Parsons, an expert at treating heartburn.

Dr. Willis Parsons of Northwest Community Hospital: "HALO Ablation Therapy is a simple procedure that doesn't require surgery."

We've treated about 200 patients using this procedure, which is more than any hospital in Illinois

For Dr. Willis Parsons and his team at the Gastroenterology Center at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, the latest news on HALO Ablation Therapy, or endoscopic ablation therapy, was confirming.

A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine (''Radiofrequency Ablation in Barrett's Esophagus with Dysplasia,'' May 28, 2009) finds endoscopic ablation therapy to be highly effective at zapping away the potentially precancerous cells associated with Barrett's esophagus.

"We've treated about 200 patients using this procedure, which is more than any hospital in Illinois," Parsons said. He and his partner, Dr. Rameez Alasadi, train doctors from around the country who come to NCH in Chicago's northwest suburbs to learn how to perform this effective procedure.

HALO Ablation Therapy, or endoscopic ablation therapy, uses heat to burn off precancerous spots on the esophagus. A new device called the HALO 360 is used to provide the treatment. "It's a simple procedure that doesn't require surgery," Parsons said. "It usually takes 35 to 45 minutes, and it's very safe. Patients usually recover quickly despite having a sore throat or chest discomfort for a few days after the procedure."

According to the American Gastroenterological Association, more than 60 million Americans experience heartburn at least once each month. "Blame it on our lifestyles," Parsons said. "It includes improper diets, eating on the run, and a variety of stress-related conditions."

Parsons recommends that people who suffer from heartburn more than twice a week, or who have trouble falling asleep because of it, have a gastroenterologist examine them. "You could have gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, which is treatable," he said. "If you ignore it, the constant backing up of stomach acid can burn the lining of your esophagus, leading to Barrett's, which may turn into cancer."

For more information on heartburn and HALO Ablation Therapy, visit Northwest Community Hospital online at nch.org/heartburn.

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Blaine Krage
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