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Juan Carlos was diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus during a routine endoscopy. A follow-up biopsy brought worse news: he also had high-grade dysplasia, meaning that part of his esophagus was becoming cancerous.
Barrett’s esophagus is a condition in which damage to the lining of the esophagus results in abnormal cell growth, which can lead to esophageal cancer.
According to Dr. José Miguel Esteban, Chief of the Endoscopy Department at Hospital Clinico Scan Carlos and Hospital Ruber Internacional in Madrid, Spain (and Juan Carlos’ physician) many people in our society suffer from Barrett’s without knowing it. They may experience GERD symptoms for 10 to 20 years, but they don’t take it seriously enough to seek treatment. When they eventually get a routine endoscopy, like Juan Carlos did, they discover that they have Barrett’s.
“The problem,” said Dr. Esteban, “is that when people finally come in for a biopsy, we find high-grade dysplasia, and it’s just one step before cancer.”
The problem is that when people finally come in for a biopsy, we find high-grade dysplasia, and it’s just one step before cancer.Dr. Esteban
The first doctor Juan Carlos saw told him that the only possible solution for his Barrett’s was surgery — but that there was a 20% chance that the surgery would kill him. Juan Carlos didn’t like those odds, so he went online to do some research of his own. He connected with other Barrett’s patients and learned about a treatment called radiofrequency ablation (RFA).
“I realized radiofrequency ablation could be the salvation for my disease,” said Juan Carlos. After some more digging, he discovered that there was a hospital in Madrid, just two hours from his home, that practiced RFA. He reached out to Dr. Esteban for treatment.
RFA is an endoscopy treatment that uses heat to remove tissue affected by Barrett’s esophagus. The treatment takes just 20–30 minutes, and patients are sent home 3 or 4 hours later with diet recommendations and medication. After 10–12 weeks, they’ll come back for a second treatment. On average, it takes two treatments to eradicate all the tissue damaged by Barrett’s.
“Paradoxically, after a grim initial diagnosis, my prospects improved,” Juan Carlos said. “Dr. Esteban told me, ‘Relax, there’s a minimally invasive treatment for Barrett’s. You can stop worrying now, we’ll treat you.’”
Information and resources on this site should not be used as a substitute for medical advice from your doctor. Always discuss diagnosis and treatment information including risks with your doctor. Keep in mind that all treatment and outcome results are specific to the individual patient. Results may vary.