Sam Douglass - Real Patients. Real Stories. PagesfromBL111710_Plano_LR - Page 2

“My doctors have been thorough and forthright with me. I’ve got an awesome team.” —Sam Douglass endoscopy specialist removed a small area of the esophagus to both diagnose the cancer and eliminate the tumor. “My doctors have been thorough and forthright with me,” Douglass says. “When needed, they were able to explain things so I could get it. I’ve got an awesome team.” Because the cancerous tissue was discovered early and removed before the cancer spread, Douglass avoided open surgery to remove part or all of the esophagus. When it comes to this kind of cancer, however, not everyone has such encouraging results. “Esophageal cancer is often diagnosed at late stages when it is really too late to cure people,” says Vani Konda, MD, director of clinical operations at the Center for Esophageal Diseases. “When we can discover it early, we have the opportunity to make a true diff erence.” WHAT HEARTBURN COULD MEAN Not all heartburn leads to cancer, of course. Some heartburn is normal, and you shouldn’t worry if it happens occasionally. Talk to a doctor, though, if your discomfort is a daily development or can’t be controlled, Dr. Konda says. Often, chronic heartburn is a sign of gastroesophageal refl ux disease, or GERD, an illness that occurs when acid backs out of the stomach, irritating the lining of the esophagus. Heartburn can indicate other issues, too, so it’s important to work with a health care provider. “A doctor should be careful to fi nd out what people are feeling and then separately why they are feeling that way,” Dr. Konda says. “Is it due to refl ux, or is it something else?” For example, an allergic condition in the esophagus called eosinophilic esophagitis can seem like refl ux, Dr. Konda says. “Another thing that could mimic refl ux is a motor disorder of the esophagus called achalasia,” she says. “Achalasia is most often associated with trouble swallowing, but sometimes people attribute what they are feeling to heartburn.” WHEN TO SEEK TREATMENT Dr. Konda says people experiencing heartburn regularly should talk to their doctors, even if they believe they are managing their symptoms with over-the- counter medications. “Chronic refl ux can lead to chronic injury and chronic infl ammation,” she says, “and that is a setup for a change in the lining in the esophagus called Barrett’s esophagus.” Most cases of heartburn can be treated with diet and lifestyle modifi cation and occasional medications. A small number of people have conditions that call for surgery, Dr. Konda says. Usually, you can identify and avoid foods that trigger heartburn, refrain from eating at least three hours before bedtime, and sleep with your head and shoulders raised 3 to 6 inches. Trouble swallowing, weight loss, vomiting, or blood in vomit or stool warrants immediate evaluation. SPREADING THE WORD For the foreseeable future, Douglass will undergo regular treatments designed to regrow healthy tissue in his esophagus. One day, he hopes to be declared cancer- free. In the meantime, he is advocating for more vigilant screening—and also praising his care team at Baylor Scott & White Health. “I was looking for and praying for a dream team, and Baylor Scott & White is my dream team,” Douglass says. “Th ey have been assertive in helping me attack this cancer.” WHAT’S CAUSING MY ACID REFLUX? If you have acid refl ux, you might pinpoint spicy foods as the main culprit. However, they aren’t the only foods to blame. “A lot of common foods can trigger symptoms,” says Rassa Shahidzadeh, MD, a gastroenterologist on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Plano. In addition to spicy foods, Dr. Shahidzadeh says onions, garlic, tomato sauce, caffeine, chocolate and peppermint can cause acid refl ux symptoms. “These foods can increase acid production,” he says. Eliminating all these foods from your diet can be restrictive, so remove one at a time to get a better idea of which foods are problematic for you. If your symptoms aren’t improving after a week or two, or if you have trouble swallowing, unexplained weight loss or rectal bleeding, or you’re vomiting blood, see a doctor right away. You might need to be screened for Barrett’s esophagus, a precancerous condition related to acid refl ux. M O RE Stomach Support The right treatment can end your symptoms. For a referral to a gastroenterologist on the Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Plano medical staff, call 1.800.4BAYLOR. 7