NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Acid reflux makes life miserable for millions of Americans, and can cause heartburn and potentially worse it can lead to changes in the esophagus that may lead to cancer.
As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez explained, a new procedure could prevent cancer by freezing abnormal cells.
“I started getting very nauseous. I would wake-up, and I would feel extremely nauseous. I couldn’t leave the house without throwing up,” Yanell Barrientos recalled.
That was bad enough, but when Barrientos got checked by her doctor, the news got worse. She had something called Barrett’s esophagus.
“They told me that it’s abnormal cells in my esophagus that are not supposed to be there,” she said, “Unfortunately, I can develop cancer with Barrett’s if I don’t take care of myself.”
Certain cancers have been on the rise despite all of the acid blocking drugs on the market.
“In the last 25 years, esophageal cancer has increased by five to six times. The fastest rising cancer despite us doing endoscopies, and treating with proton-pump inhibitors,” Dr. Harry Snady said.
To prevent her Barrett’s from becoming cancer, Yanell was put through a different technique. Her abnormal cells were frozen with liquid nitrogen.
“We can actually deliver liquid nitrogen, which is very cold, 320, minus 320 degrees Fahrenheit to the esophagus through a specialized catheter,” Dr. Snady said.
Yanell was sedated while Dr. Snady put the tubes down her throat to the Barrett’s. There he can spray the liquid nitrogen on in a controlled manner to freeze just the top layer of cells.
“As the new cells grow back, what grows back, amazingly enough is a normal esophageal cell,” Dr. Snady said.
Don Kane had his Barrett’s frozen years ago when the technique was still experimental.
“It’s gone, as far as I’m concerned, and it won’t come back,” he said.
It usually takes about three or four freezing treatments to get rid of all the abnormal cells.
Recovery is pretty easy. Yanell woke up, had some juice and a cookie, and by the time she was home could eat a normal meal.