Monday, January 26, 2015

THE ENDOSCOPY CLINIC . . . I'VE HAD MY THROAT CANCER CHECK-UP -- NOW YOU GET YOURS.

THE ENDOSCOPY CLINIC  -- What goes on there can literally save you life!

BY VERNE STRICKLAND   1/26/2015


I went to the GI doctor this past week for an endoscopy. Stomach acid seemed  to searing my throat. It was time to get a bir worried again.


This kind of condition has  bedeviled me before. And I have felt it would be wise to get  checked out. I have also had three colonoscopies during the past ten years or so. Polyps showed up on the last one. They are like IED's in your gut, and must be excised because they can become cancerous.


Most of us have also had friends who opted to take a short cut, give the GI clinic a wide berth, and hoped for the best. Many of these paid  a big price because they feared the procedure, or didn't want to find bad news, or just didn't want to go to the trouble. I never figured that was the way to go.





During my fifteen or so years in  Wilmington, I have gone to Wilmington Gastroentrology for these procedures. I have a lot of confidence in them, and that confidence has been earned. Their clinic on Oleander Drive is spacious, modern, attractive, and features the absolute latest technology available for providing safe, efficient, procedures. The OR staff includes Board-Certified surgeon Dr. Steven D. Klein, several RNs and the anesthesiologist. There are a total of seven gastroenterologists on staff.


If it sounds like I'm making a promotional push, I am, in a sense, because I think this medical practice is exceptional. Any of you who have concerns about throat and stomach acid will want to get to know these professionals if in the Wilmington area.


THE POTENTIAL PROBLEM

What one wants to avoid at all costs is esophogeal cancer. Once it has become established, surgery may not be an option. Use of a stent can open up the esophagus, and dilation of the "swallowing tube" useful. Additionally, radiation and chemotherapy can be employed. But the metastasizing malignancy may prevent swallowing altogether, with the result that the patient eventually chokes to death.  prevents swallowing, and the patient eventually chokes to death.
Esophageal cancer occurs when cancer cells develop in the esophagus, a tube-like structure that runs from your throat to your stomach. Food goes from the mouth to the stomach through the esophagus. The cancer starts at the inner layer of the esophagus and can spread throughout the other layers of the esophagus and to other parts of the body (metastasis).
  1. The five-year survival rate of people with esophageal cancer is about 17%. However, survival rates depend on several factors, including the stage (or extent) of the cancer at the time of diagnosis. The five-yearsurvival rate of people with cancer located only in the esophagus is about 39%.
  2. As this graphic indicates, the State of North Carolina is one of the nation's hot spots for this very serious cancer.

  1. MAJOR RISK FACTORS
  2. It's thought that chronic irritation of your esophagus may contribute to the DNA changes that cause esophageal cancer. Factors that cause irritation in the cells of your esophagus and increase your risk of esophageal cancer include:
    • Drinking alcohol
    • Having bile reflux
    • Having difficulty swallowing because of an esophageal sphincter that won't relax (achalasia)
    • Drinking very hot liquids
    • Eating few fruits and vegetables
    • Having gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
    • Being obese
    • Having precancerous changes in the cells of the esophagus (Barrett's esophagus)
    • Undergoing radiation treatment to the chest or upper abdomen
    • Smoking

RUNNING THE GAUNTLET

I didn't hesitate when the Physician's Assistant to Dr. Klein told me that, after an evaluation of my case, it was decided that an endoscopy was needed to determine the risk I  was facing. For several nights in succession my throat and upper esophogeal tract seemed seared by stomach acid. It was very painful and very distressful. 


This mistreatment of your esophagus does not go unnoticed by your body, which may react by turning normal cells into malignant ones. The discomfort is bad enough. What it signals over a period of time can be much worse. 



How do doctors perform an upper GI endoscopy?


A doctor performs an upper GI endoscopy in a hospital or an outpatient center. An intravenous (IV) needle will be placed in your arm to provide a sedative. Sedatives help you stay relaxed and comfortable during the procedure. In some cases, the procedure can be performed without sedation. You will be given a liquid anesthetic to gargle or spray anesthetic on the back of your throat. The anesthetic numbs your throat and calms the gag reflex. The health care staff will monitor your vital signsExternal NIH Link and keep you as comfortable as possible. 

You’ll be asked to lie on your side on an exam table. The doctor will carefully feed the endoscope down your esophagus and into your stomach and duodenum.A small camera mounted on the endoscope will send a video image to a monitor, allowing close examination of the lining of your upper GI tract. The endoscope pumps air into your stomach and duodenum, making them easier to see.
During the upper GI endoscopy, the doctor may
  • perform a biopsy of tissue in your upper GI tract. You won’t feel the biopsy.
  • stop any bleeding.
  • perform other specialized procedures, such as dilating strictures.
​​​The procedure most often takes between 15 and 30 minutes. The endoscope does not interfere with your breathing, and many people fall asleep during the procedure. 

I came out clean as a whistle. No problems of any consequence. I can thank God and my doctor for that.

But Durrene and I know that some of the patients who sat in the waiting room did not receive the same good news. They might have been advised of serious problems which would require radiation, chemotherapy, or surgery for stent implantation, for example, to save their lives!

The trick is to find and employ the services of a good gastroenterologist at a specialized medical center like Wilmington Gastroenterology. Timing is important. Cancer won't wait. It won't be ignored. I was lucky in that no serious problems were found. I was smart in that I moved without delay. 

Please do the same, and God bless you! 
Verne Strickland, Wilmington NC