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.”
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
“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.”
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
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-
“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
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 &
“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
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
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
The right treatment can end
your symptoms. For a referral
to a gastroenterologist on the
Baylor Scott & White Medical
Center – Plano medical staff,