Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center
Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center

Esophageal cancer incidence is rising at one of the highest rates of any cancer, particularly among Caucasian men, which is often attributed to the obesity epidemic and resulting esophageal reflux. To help fight this increasingly prevalent disease, the NCI-designated Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor College of Medicine has formed a new multi-specialty group to provide expert, state-of-the-art esophageal cancer care, from assessing risk, screening and prevention, to diagnosis, treatment and post-treatment supportive care.

The program encompasses physicians and researchers from a range of disciplines, including thoracic surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology and gastroenterology, to bring comprehensive care to patients in one location.

“The idea for this kind of cancer-focused multi-disciplinary program grew out of my collaboration with Dr. Mohamed Othman; we were sharing patients and exchanging ideas on best courses of treatment when we realized that this kind of teamwork could be highly valuable and scalable in the future,” said Dr. Shawn Groth, assistant professor of surgery in the division of general thoracic surgery and director of Esophageal Surgical Services at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center.

Led by Baylor’s Groth, Dr. Henry Mok, assistant professor of radiation oncology, Dr. Brandon Smaglo, assistant professor of medicine in the section of medical oncology, and Othman, director of advanced endoscopy and assistant professor of medicine and gastroenterology, the formation of the esophageal cancer program creates the 13th disease oriented multi-disciplinary program in the Duncan Cancer Center.

“The collaborative nature of our team of physicians, nurses and staff results in the best possible care for the patient,” said Mok. “Through the new specialty center, we are able to provide complete care and consultation across the board.”

Esophageal cancer, like breast and GI cancers, is a disease requiring multi-disciplinary care, and creating a new program that offers risk assessment and screening with new sophisticated techniques, prevention, diagnosis and treatment, state-of-the-art research, as well as the ability to execute a high volume of tri-modality treatments, is essential in improving the quality and access to expert care to improve outcome of this often fatal cancer.

“Early detection is very important when diagnosing esophageal cancer. As the most rapidly increasing cancer in Caucasian men, factors such as obesity, esophageal reflux, smoking and consumption of alcohol increase the risk for esophageal cancer, and there are some warning signs to keep in mind,” said Dr. Kent Osborne, director of the Duncan Cancer Center. “We encourage patients who have developed symptoms such as chronic heartburn or who have Barrett’s Esophagus to make an appointment to get screened and be proactive about their health.”

Additionally, the expertise represented in the esophageal cancer program will allow for minimally invasive surgery, a specialty of the Duncan Cancer Center, as well as more aggressive surgery when necessary.

“When a patient comes in requiring a range of services, we want to be that single institution for them and keep them within the system,” said Othman. “Having a dedicated program provides our patients with more flexibility in scheduling appointments and greater communication and trust between the patient and their physician.”

The esophageal cancer program is built on Baylor’s existing strengths in research and patient care and focus on individualized care.

“We believe in a patient-centered approach to care, creating individualized treatment plans for each patient,” Smaglo added. “Every case is different, and we have to customize our recommendations based on the guidelines of care to make sure we are using the best course of action.”

“The Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center provides the highest quality of care to our patients, and we recognized a need for more streamlined esophageal cancer care for this increasingly common disease with a high mortality,” said Osborne. “The team that has been assembled to launch the esophageal specialty center will allow us to screen high-risk patients, diagnose the disease earlier and care for the patient with cancer at every stage of their treatment.”

Those wanting to make an appointment with the new esophageal center in the Baylor Clinic should contact the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center directly. More information can be found on its website or by calling (713) 798-1354.