Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Retired Railroad Worker Dodges the Oncoming Cancer Train

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Retired Railroad Worker Dodges the Oncoming Cancer Train

Article excerpt

When a surgeon told John Binsbacher he needed surgery that could kill him, "I got kind of scared," he said.

Physicians had found an irritation in his esophagus in 1997, a condition that didn't seem serious. For 13 years he took antacids and an Alka Seltzer each night before bed. His doctor checked the esophagus about every three years.

"I had complained about reflux," Binsbacher said. "I'd never really watched what I ate and drank, and I guess that's what causes it." But there wasn't much he could do about it other than take antacids.

For a time he became a caregiver for his wife. After she died, he started looking after himself again.

In 2010, an endoscopy found suspicious irritation and polyps near Binsbacher's stomach. He was eventually referred to a surgeon who told him he had Barrett's esophagus a condition that increases the risk of cancer by 30-fold and if the polyps were cancerous, his only option was surgery.

Esophageal cancer surgery involves removing part of the esophagus and then moving the stomach to reconnect with the esophagus. It's an eight-hour surgery with more than a week in the hospital. And if the cancer has spread, the surgery may not be a fix.

"It was scary," Binsbacher said. "I guess just a couple of weeks before, I had a friend call me and he had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer and he passed away. It sometimes gets to you pretty quick."

Binsbacher said his oldest son, Jim, and wife, Nancy, who's a nurse, did some research on Barrett's esophagus.

They found HALO ablation therapy, which uses radio frequencies to burn away troubled tissue. It works like a colonoscopy that gets to the bad spots then burns it away.

If his children hadn't done the research, "I probably would have gone on with the surgery," Binsbacher said. "I hadn't heard of the HALO treatment."

Christine Hachem, a gastroenterologist at St. Louis University Hospital, said the procedure "allows us an alternative to surgery for some Barrett's patients and requires essentially no recovery period."

Over the next 20 months, Binsbacher had seven HALO procedures. …

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