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Minimally Invasive Surgery for Cancer

People who have precancerous stomach, colon or esophageal lesions – or who may have limited early stage cancer – now have a minimally invasive alternative to traditional surgery. The procedure is called endoscopic muscosal resection, and it involves using an endoscope to remove cancerous or abnormal tissue.

“Endoscopic muscosal resection primarily is used for treatment,” says Wilfred Lee, MD, gastroenterologist at Saint Francis Medical Center. “But it can also be used for diagnosis.”

“The old-fashioned way to diagnose cancer,” continues Lee, “is to perform a biopsy, collect tissue and then test it. However, a biopsy is sometimes not enough because we cannot tell from a tissue sample how deep and wide the tumor has spread. Endoscopic muscosal resection can tell us that, because it allows us to visualize the entire area around the tumor.”

Wilfred Lee, MD
Wilfred Lee, MD

During the procedure, the physician inserts a long, narrow tube with a light and video camera attached into the digestive tract or, in the case of colon cancer, into the anus. He or she injects a fluid through the endoscope to create a cushion between the abnormal tissue and the rest of the area, snares and cuts it away from the surrounding healthy tissue and removes it from the body.

Endoscopic muscosal resection typically is performed on an outpatient basis. It is far less invasive than surgery, and has a quicker recovery time.

However, there are some risks associated with the procedure. The more tissue the physician removes, the more risk there is of bleeding and perforation. That is why it is important that patients have experienced physicians and nurses to minimize potential complications.

“Outcomes are excellent if the endoscopic muscosal resection is performed properly and very carefully,” says Lee. “At Saint Francis, we have a dedicated team of physicians and nurses who take all precautions. All our nurses are specially trained for the procedure, and we keep patient safety as our top priority. We have state-of-the-art technology that helps us stop the bleeding before it causes any problems.”

For more information, call 573-331-3000.

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