• By Dana Sparks

Sharing Mayo Clinic: Finding a less invasive treatment for esophageal cancer

July 14, 2019

Mike DiGennaro knew he needed surgery. But he thought he would have a procedure to correct an umbilical hernia, and that would be the end of it. After the surgery and recovery, however, Mike's surgeon revisited Mike's medical history and suggested some additional procedures.

"I have a history of acid reflux, so he said I was probably due for an endoscopy and maybe a colonoscopy, too," Mike says. "But I joked around with him and said: 'You're just looking to make more money! I'm as healthy as a horse!'"

After a month of additional prodding by his doctors and his wife, Sue, Mike relented, agreeing to go in for what he assumed would be routine examinations. They weren't.

"The endoscopy is when they found the cancer," he says. "They did a biopsy, and I honestly didn't understand the seriousness of it until I started doing my own research and discovered esophageal cancer isn't a very good thing to have."

Following the diagnosis, Mike had his cancer staged. "They determined it to be stage 1," Mike says. "After staging, they did a PET (positron emission tomography) scan that, thankfully, didn't find additional cancer throughout my body."

With the cancer contained to his esophagus, Mike's care team in Wisconsin was swift and direct in their proposed treatment plan. "They said: 'We need to get an esophagectomy done right away. We'll cure you. You have to do it,'" Mike says. "And I said, 'OK, but let me do some of my own research first.'"

Mike was concerned about the extent of the surgery. He was told the esophagectomy — a procedure that would involve removing part, or possibly all, of his esophagus — required a prolonged hospital stay. "I really didn't want to go through all of that if I didn't have to," he says.

Mike began researching other treatments. That's when he discovered a less-invasive surgery for esophageal cancer was being done at Mayo Clinic called gastrointestinal endoscopic mucosal resection.

Read the rest of Mike's story.
This article originally appeared on the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog.