Tiny lesions rooted deep inside the intestinal tract might sound deadly and, in the past, they might have been. But, thanks to a new technique being done at Hartford HealthCare, many patients are leaving the operating room cancer-free.
Dr. Vaibhav Mehendiratta, a gastroenterologist with Connecticut GI who is affiliated with the Surgical Oncology Program at Hartford HealthCare’s Cancer Institute, called the technique “the most exciting development in recent years” for people with precancerous lesions of the gastrointestinal tract.
“The techniques, called endoscopic mucosal resection or endoscopic submucosal dissection, gives us the ability to remove precancerous lesions or early cancers from lining of the intestinal tract using endoscopic tools,” he said of the minimally-invasive procedure. “This allows patients to successfully undergo cancer removal without major surgery.
“The advancement is especially beneficial for patients with complicated medical conditions that might make them inappropriate surgical candidates.”
November is Pancreatic Awareness Month and, because of his special interest in gastroenterologic oncology, Dr. Mehendiratta said he treats many patients who have pancreaticobiliary disorders and cancers as well as those with issues in the esophagus or colon. He is part of the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute’s team approach to treating pancreatic cancers – part of the category called hepatobiliary (HPB) cancers. The subspecialty-trained team of experts also includes gastroenterologists, radiation oncologists and surgical oncologists who work in a coordinated fashion to discuss each patient’s case and determine the best course of action. Navigators also help guide patients through each step of the journey.
“Gastroenterologists are involved early in diagnosis of GI cancers when patients present with symptoms like pain, trouble eating, bleeding or weight loss,” he said.
He added that their expertise in the gastrointestinal tract means that, “during treatment, gastroenterologists are involved in the staging of cancer and for providing palliative treatments like stents to relieve blockage or nerve blocks for pain control.”
Patients with HPB cancers, Dr. Mehendiratta said, might require:
- Standard endoscopic procedures like upper endoscopy and colonoscopy for biopsy or removal of intestinal cancers.
- Endoscopic ultrasound to stage cancer or biopsy any mass located outside the intestines.
- Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), a test to relieve blockage of the bile duct that drains the liver and gallbladder in the case of patients with abnormal liver tests
At Hartford HealthCare, HPB cancer patients are seen by providers specializing in the treatment of such malignancies in locations throughout the community, which makes receiving care more convenient. The providers also provide access to innovative clinical trials through Memorial Sloan Kettering for patients, especially those with pancreatic cancer.
For more information on treatment for hepatobiliary cancers at the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute, click here.