Minimally invasive procedure offers option for tough cancer

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Randy Even enjoys life, spending time with his wife and friends,

But about a year ago, it took a step in a different direction.

"I couldn't eat," Randy recalls. It led to a diagnosis of cancer in his esophagus.

"It's one of the more aggressive cancers that we deal with," explained Dr. Wael Khreiss, a surgeon at Stormont Vail in Topeka.

Learn the signs and symptoms of cancer of the esophagus from the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Khreiss and his colleagues recently started offering the Ivor Louis procedure. It is meant for tumors in the lower part of the esophagus. Doctors first use chemotherapy and radiation to shrink the tumor, followed by minimally invasive surgery to remove it.

"We remove a third of the esophagus - that's the swallowing tube - and then the upper part of the stomach, and then we hook the two organs back together, so the anatomy and the way the food goes remains the same," Dr. Khreiss said. "In the past, most times, these cancers were considered unresectable, but with the help of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery, this cancer is actually curable at this point."

Patients spend a few days in the hospital and must eat a soft diet for about four weeks. But they face fewer complications than traditional surgery, which would involve major incisions.

"There's much less pain; there's faster recovery; faster return to work and activities of daily living," Dr. Khreiss said.

Learn more about esophageal cancer from Mayo Clinic.

Not all patients are candidates for the procedure, which can take eight hours to complete, but Randy feels blessed it worked for him.

"(I'm) cancer free! I'm alive and kicking!" he says.