Chris O’Brien Lifehouse gastroenterologist Dr Payal Saxena is one of the first specialists in Sydney to use a new minimally invasive treatment known as radiofrequency ablation (RFA) to prevent a common throat disease from developing into cancer.
Barrett’s Oesophagus affects up to 15 per cent of Australians. Symptoms are similar to frequent heartburn.
Dr Saxena says: “Pre-cancerous changes are generally detected in patients with Barrett’s Oesophagus, a condition that affects the lining of the oesophagus or foodpipe, and is caused by chronic reflux – the backwash of acid from the stomach.
“Previously, when a patient developed pre-cancerous changes, a major operation to remove the oesophagus was required to prevent progression to cancer.
“RFA is a procedure that uses radiofrequency energy, or microwaves, to destroy the Barrett’s cells. Studies have shown that RFA can prevent progression of pre-cancerous changes into cancer. It is a day-only procedure which takes approximately 30 minutes. Generally, patients need to return for three or four treatments until the Barrett’s cells are completely removed.”
Dr Payal Saxena sub-specialises in Interventional Endoscopy. She completed her specialist Gastroenterology training in Sydney then travelled to the USA where she undertook a two-year Interventional Endoscopy and Research fellowship at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
She noted that special equipment is required to perform this new procedure, and the funding arrangements are currently under review by the private healthcare industry.
“Prior to all private patient admissions, Lifehouse checks with the patient’s private health insurer to determine eligibility for benefits.”
Patient John Sim, of Leura in New South Wales, says in his case, the new treatment would help him avoid discomfort. He is a retired architect with Barrett’s Oesophagus who has been screened every two years for 20 years, before being told his condition was advancing.
“When someone mentions the big C – and it’s never been mentioned before to me – it really shocks you.
“A good friend of mine had some problems years ago and he had a plastic tube put down his oesophagus. If this procedure is going to avoid those possibilities, I’m happy.”