Preventing Esophageal Cancer
April is Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month. Millions of people live with acid reflux which could trigger serious complications that may lead to cancer. How one northern Nevadan found relief in Health Watch.
“I spend my time outdoors. I like to hunt and fish; bird hunting mostly."
As often as possible, you'll find Jace Cook out running his dog or shooting clay targets with his kids. He has always been active, but up until recently something was slowing him down - a burning chest pain.
"I could drink a glass of water and have heartburn." Jace lived with heartburn for 20 years, so you can imagine it was always on his mind. "It was and any time I ate, I knew I'd have heartburn."
Nothing seemed to help until he met Dr. Michael Murray who is a General Surgeon with Northern Nevada Medical Group. Dr. Murray determined Jace had a hiatal hernia and Barrett's Esophagus which is a complication from longstanding acid reflux disease. If left untreated, it could lead to esophageal cancer. They opted for a Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication, or TIF, procedure to stop the reflux.
"All of us are born with about 30-35 millimeters of inter-abdominal sphincter. As you destroy that, you destroy the ability to prevent the acid from going up into the esophagus." Using endoscopic technology, Dr. Murray can repair or recreate the body's natural barrier to reflux. "Your valve is designed to relax every now and then to vent gas out of your stomach. Some of those relaxations are now associated with fluid going up instead of just gas and that's what acid reflux is.” The fundoplication basically prevents those relaxations.
"How are your symptoms?” Dr. Murray asks Jace at a follow-up appointment. “Gone, totally gone.” Six months out, Jace says he no longer experiences heartburn and some of his bad habits are gone, too. "I've lost 40 pounds. Changed my life! I've learned to eat. I've learned to enjoy food and because I enjoy food - I eat right." Now he focuses on fueling his body properly for what he loves. "I'm happier, I move better. When it comes to the outdoors, I hike better. Like I said, changed my life."
Dr. Murray says it's all about prevention. He encourages patients not to super-size their meals, decrease alcohol consumption and don't smoke. To learn more about acid reflux, Barrett’s Esophagus and Esophageal cancer, there is a free seminar happening on Thursday, April 18th at the Sparks Medical Office Building at 2385 East Prater Way in Sparks from 6-7 p.m. To RSVP, call (775) 356-6662 or log onto www.nnmc.com/events.