ST. MARYS — A new procedure offered by Joint Township District Memorial Hospital may prevent esophageal cancer — the current treatment of which is both devastating and disfiguring, besides having low survival rates.
HALO, the name of the procedure, treats a condition called Barrett’s esophagus, in which the tissue becomes altered and precancerous, said Operating Room Manager and Coordinator of Surgery Services Lisa Mosier. People with Barrett’s have a much higher chance of esophageal cancer.
Without a HALO procedure, the treatment of Barrett’s is to attempt to control acid reflux, a condition that contributes to the Barrett’s, then having multiple biopsies to see if cells turn cancerous. Controlling acid reflux is difficult, Mosier said, and once cells turn cancerous, the prognosis isn’t good.
“Treatment is rigorous and brutal,” she said.
Mosier would know; had the HALO procedure been developed 20 years earlier, it may have prevented her father’s death of esophageal cancer.
HALO would also have been less devastating and invasive and more effective than the 12 hour surgery her father endured to replace a piece of his esophagus with a piece from his intestine.
“Then he went through intensive chemo only to have it metastasize and go to his brain,” she said.
So far HALO has treated more than 20 local patients with Barrett’s. It works by heating a catheter run down the esophagus, which has a tip that inflates and administers heat radiation that targets and kills the abnormal cells; the process is called ablation.
After a positive ablation, a follow up spot check treats any leftover abnormal cells.
JTDMH is the only hospital in the area offering the treatment. The next closest hospital is in Dayton.
The outpatient procedure takes about three hours and then patients take over-the-counter antacids to control any acid.
Patients tend to be cancer free for two and a half years post-treatment.
Physicians K. Lance Bryant and Robert Keighley are administering the treatment, and came to the hospital saying it would be beneficial to offer.
“It was definitely a capital investment,” Mosier said. “They brought it and said they see a lot of patients with this.”
Mosier said improving treatment of Barrett’s is very personal to her, and she’s passionate about preventing the “long, rigorous, disfiguring surgery” her father endured.
“As technology progresses, treatment improves,” she said.