For patients at high risk of esophageal cancer, surgical removal of all or part of the esophagus has been standard treatment. But Dr. Gail Darling, Thoracic Surgeon at Toronto General Hospital, is hoping to change that.
Thanks to donor support, Dr. Darling is bringing a groundbreaking treatment called Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) to Ontario. Relatively common in Europe and the United States, RFA is a procedure that uses electrical energy to destroy cancerous tissues. It’s less invasive and safer than surgery and more effective for the prevention of esophageal cancer development in high-risk patients — patients like 70-year-old Mr. Ed Provis.
During a regular check up, Mr. Provis was discovered to have dysplasia, a forerunner to cancer. “My brother had cancer of the esophagus and had to have it removed,” says Mr. Provis. “He went through major surgery and eight months of chemo. Thankfully they found it early with me.”
Mr. Provis was referred to Toronto General Hospital where he is participating in the new RFA treatment. If successful, the RFA procedure will enable Mr. Provis’ esophagus to renew itself, avoiding the need for surgery altogether.
“I couldn’t get this kind of care locally,” says Mr. Provis, who travels almost 400 kilometres round-trip for the treatment. “Dr. Darling has all the best credentials that you can ask for.”
Beneficial results from this study will help ensure RFA becomes a standard of care in Ontario fully supported by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. At present, the groundbreaking treatment is made possible entirely by donor support.
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When Junko Lui was successfully treated for cervical cancer over a decade ago, she hoped her battle with cancer was over. But then another tumour appeared. “A nurse recommended I contact a surgeon who had just arrived at UHN,” recalls Junko. “I heard he was very skilled and may be able to treat me.”
Dr. Kazu Yasufuku, Director of the Interventional Thoracic Surgery Program, was able to successfully remove the entire cancerous tumour from Junko’s right lung using the minimally invasive surgery he is renowned for. “The recovery time was so quick,” recalls Junko. “I was home in two or three days.”
Dr. Yasufuku went on to perform a second surgery on Junko when a lesion in her left lung was discovered to be cancerous. Her recovery time after this surgery was even faster since the new procedure required just a few tiny incisions.
Today, Junko is cancer-free and thankful for the care she received at Toronto General Hospital. “I am very grateful to have found such a kind, bright, dedicated and gifted surgeon,” says Junko. To show her appreciation, Junko made a gift in Dr. Yasufuku’s honour through the hospital’s Honour Your Hero program. Her thoughtful donation will be used to support Dr. Yasufuku’s work in thoracic surgery research.
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At 56 years old, Andy Dykstra (pictured with his wife, Chris and two daughters, Megan and Stephanie) had been suffering from emphysema for five years, making even simple tasks like answering the door impossible.
“I could still breathe, but I wasn’t living.” Andy was on a waiting list for new lungs.
On December 5, 2008, Andy became the first patient to receive a pair of lung reconditioned in the Toronto XVIVO Lung Perfusion System. Thanks to this donor-funded innovation, Andy was able to breathe without any mechanical assistance just four days after the transplant.
“Life is sweet and I can breathe again. I am so grateful to Dr. Keshavjee and the lung transplant team. They changed my life.”
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