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UCI Health doctors offer minimally-invasive treatment for early esophageal cancer

June 27, 2019


IN THE NEWS: In the last 20 years, the number of Americans diagnosed with esophageal cancer has increased five-fold. The survival rate is bleak, but even in early stages, the traditional treatment involves extensive, major surgery in which much of the esophagus must be removed. ABC7 health reporter Denise Dador recently interviewed UCI Health gastroenterologist Jason B. Samarasena, MD, and patient Al Kong about a new procedure called endoscopic mucosal resection, a minimally invasive procedure to remove early stage esophageal cancer with no major surgery, chemotherapy or radiation

The H.H. Chao Comprehensive Digestive Disease Center at UCI Medical Center in Orange is one of few places in the nation to offer the procedure. Dr. Samarasena uses flexible, tube-like tools called endoscopes to locate and remove the tumors. Early detection is key and Kong, who lost his mother and son to cancer last year, mentioned after a routine colonoscopy that he suffered regularly from acid reflux. A follow up exam found an early stage cancerous tumor in his esophagus.  

“Even with the best chemo therapy, radiation and surgery, the five-year survival for esophageal cancer is only about 19%,” Samarasena said of the traditional treatment for the disease.

That’s why he recommends people with acid reflux should get screened.

“Especially people with risk factors, family history for esophageal cancer, they probably need an endoscopy,” Samarasena told ABC7.

“Just take the time to ask the questions,” Kong said.

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