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YOUR HEALTH: A polyp removal that can save your colon

NEW YORK CITY – Almost half of all adults in the United States develop colon polyps during their lifetime,

They are often benign but can sometimes develop into cancer.

Now, one doctor says a procedure developed in Japan should be used more often in America.

It helped 50-year old Jaime Reid who is bouncing back from a health scare that could have set him back for weeks.   During a routine colonoscopy, doctors found a polyp.

While most mushroom like polyps are removed endoscopically with a surgical tool that snares the growth, Jaime's polyp was too large and flat.

The traditional option would have been to remove that section of the colon.

"It would have meant another five days in the hospital," said Reid.   "Probably a week out of work."

Instead, Jaime had a procedure called ESD or endoscopic submucosal dissection.

Using an endoscope, doctors inject fluid into the layer of the bowel next to the polyp, creating a working space.

Then doctors use the scope to deliver an electric current, like a laser.

"The scope is being used to actually draw around the lesion and cut layer by layer to get the polyps removed," said colorectal surgeon Dr. Richard Whelan.

Dr. Whelan is one of only a handful of surgeons and G-I doctors performing ESD in the United States.   He says doctors need more training, and hospitals will need to invest in specialized equipment before ESD can catch on.

For Jaime Reid, ESD meant only one day in the hospital.

"I was at work four days later. That's a success for me."

NEW TECHNOLOGY:  Endoscopic submucosal dissection or ESD is an outpatient procedure to remove deep tumors from the gastrointestinal tract.   Specially trained doctors use flexible, tube-like imaging tools called endoscopes to perform ESD.   Most patients go home the same day after treatment.   Only a few select centers across the United States perform ESD because the procedure requires a high degree of training and expertise.   Often recovery is faster and less painful than with laparoscopic or open surgical procedures.   An endoscope is inserted into the anus, and once the polyp is located, your doctor will observe the images on the screen and mark its border with a special tool passed through the endoscope.   The layer beneath is then injected with a solution to lift it away from the muscle wall; this is done to minimize damage to surrounding tissue during the procedure.   An electrosurgical knife with a high-frequency electrical current is then used to cut the tumor tissue free from the GI wall.   The electrical current stops any active bleeding; the tissue is then removed and sent to a laboratory.   Common side effects may include excessive gas, cramping, or bloating.

Dr. Whelan says Japan is about 15 years ahead of the United States in treating colon polyps.  He says it's because Japanese surgeons have more experience using ESD to treat stomach cancer, which is more prevalent in that country.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.

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