Avera Medical Minute: Hope for esophageal cancer

Published: Mar. 21, 2021 at 11:18 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -

Doyle Barnes and his wife Crystal are getting an update on his progress at the Prairie Center on the Avera McKennan Campus.

“Cancer is just a little six-letter word until it strikes you, and then all of a sudden it’s this monster,” said Barnes.

With the help from his medical team at Avera, Barnes is slaying a monster....esophageal cancer. His first symptoms were difficulty eating, then drinking fluids.

“Trying to swallow it, I couldn’t get it to go down like it should. And then I thought, Man, I better go get this checked out,” said Barnes.

After chemo and radiation, Doyle and his wife wait for the latest results from Dr. Houman Nourkeyhani. His patients call him Dr. Nour. He delivers the good news.

“Your scans look great! I’m hard-pressed to say that there’s any radiographically detectible left. You’ve had a great response to treatment,” said Dr. Nour.

A wave of relief flows the room.

If a patient has similar symptoms, such as difficulty swallowing and weight loss, Dr. Nour says an endoscopy can provide more information. A camera is brought down into the esophagus. If there is an area of concern biopsies can be taken.

There are two types of esophageal cancer. Upper and lower. Dr. Nour knows why lower esophageal cancer is on the rise.

“Gastroesophageal reflux disease or heartburn is what we would call it. And typically, obesity, and the increase in the rates of obesity throughout the western world, have led to an increase in the rates of these cancers,” said Dr. Nour.

A multidisciplinary conference reviews every cancer case designing a personalized treatment plan. Doyle has one more step to take. Surgery will remove the portion of his esophagus affected by cancer.

Although he can eat some foods now, he looks forward to getting rid of his backpack, which holds the protein solution pump. As he recovers, he knows which food will once again be his favorite.

“Cake! I’m a cake eater,” said Barnes.

And he’s thankful for his wife, to share a slice with.

“She’s been such a support for me and I don’t know where I’d be without her. In my everyday life she’s been so much,” said Barnes.

Although obesity can contribute to esophageal cancer, Doyle believes ongoing digestive issues may have been the cause in the development of the cancer cells.

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