Groundbreaking Treatment at Sharp Grossmont Hospital Reduces Risk of Esophageal Cancer

A minimally invasive outpatient treatment that destroys precancerous tissue in the lining of the esophagus is now available at Sharp Grossmont Hospital. The procedure, called radiofrequency ablation (RFA) using the Barrx System, was recently featured in the New England Journal of Medicine as a highly effective treatment for complete eradication of Barrett’s esophagus, a precancerous condition that affects 1 to 2 million adults in the United States each year.

Barrett’s disease occurs when the esophagus is chronically exposed to gastric contents of the stomach caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly known as GERD. With prolonged acid exposure, normal cells in the esophagus can undergo a genetic change and are then vulnerable to further changes that can lead to cancer.

Individuals with Barrett’s esophagus have a 40 to 130 times higher incidence of developing esophageal cancer than those without the condition. Esophageal cancer is presently the fastest growing form of cancer in the United States.

“The main purpose of the ablation procedure is to ablate, or remove the abnormal lining of the esophagus,” said Dr. Michael Murphy, MD, JD, chief medical officer at Sharp Grossmont Hospital. “The tissue then regenerates and normal tissue grows back. This eliminates or markedly reduces the chances of cancer developing. Data from studies shows that the treatment is highly effective.”

During the procedure, an ablation catheter is positioned on the abnormal esophageal tissue. The physician delivers a rapid burst of ablative energy, which removes a very thin layer of the lining of the esophagus. The procedure is performed in an outpatient setting, without incisions, and takes less than 30 minutes on average.

Ablation therapy has been used to remove or destroy precancerous tissue;, however, technology has had limitations and hasn’t been widely used. The Barrx System provides uniform and controlled ablative therapy, which not only removes the abnormal cells but also allows for regrowth of normal cells. It’s also easier to effectively treat patients using the Barrx System without injuring healthy underlying tissue.

Esophageal cancer is often incurable because the disease is frequently discovered in the advanced stages. Esophageal cancer has a 5-year patient survival rate of just 16 percent.

For More Information
For more information or to find a Sharp-affiliated physician who is trained to do radiofrequency ablation therapy to treat Barrett’s disease, search for a San Diego physician or contact 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm.