Removing a pre malignant polyp or tumour in its initial stages from the digestive tract (esophagus, stomach or colon) is key to a patient recovering and a cancer going no further.
This is what can be achieved with a new procedure that means early-stage tumours can be taken out without the need to resort to surgery. The method, which originated in Japan where there is a high rate of gastric cancer, is being used at the Hospital Quirón in Malaga by Pedro Rosón, director of the Andalusian Digestive Illnesses Institute (INEDA). He is the only specialist who currently uses this technique in the Andalucía region.
Doctor Rosón explained to SUR that the traditional colonscope or gastroscope method cannot remove pre malignant polyps that are more than 1.5 or 2 cm in size, while the technique he is using takes out larger polyps and surface cancers whole, "which means a complete oncological removal is now possible".
"The great advantage is that we avoid a patient having to undergo conventional surgery in an operating theatre", the expert went on to explain, also highlighting that cure rates also improve and a patient's quality of life is maintained.
The submucosal dissection is carried out by endoscope. The patient is heavily sedated, without the need for artificial respiration, and is normally discharged within 24 hours, which means the procedure is much less invasive and costly than normal surgery.
Training in Japan
Doctor Rosón, who has so far carried out this procedure on eight patients, learned the technique last year in Japan from Yutaka Saito, who works at Tokyo's National Cancer Centre Hospital. Doctor Saito is the world's leading expert on the removal of pre malignant polyps and surface gastric tumours with this method.
Once the polyp or cancer is cut out, the patient undergoes various checkups to monitor progress with a colonoscopy or gastroscopy, depending on which part of the gastrointestinal system has been affected. The first checkup takes place three to six months after the procedure; the second, after a year; and the third, after three years. If everything is fine at this stage, the patient is given the all clear.
The endoscopic procedure that Doctor Rosón carries out lasts about an hour and a half, depending on the size and position of the piece to be removed. "Nobody else uses this technique in Andalucía. It's a complex method which means a lot of training and having the right specialised equipment", explained the director of the digestive illnesses institute.
Doctor Rosón is supporting a training programme to teach the method to specialists in other areas of Andalucía so they can carry it out in both private and public hospitals. "We want the Hospital Quirón to be the training centre for the procedure", he added.
The expert drew attention to the benefits that colon-cancer-screening programmes can have in detecting problems at a very early stage.
Malaga's Hospital Quirón has a free screening programme for colorectal cancer aimed at people aged between 50 and 70. This preventative programme consists of a medical appointment and a kit to detect blood hidden in stools, with the aim of diagnosing small hidden wounds before they grow and become tumours.
"It's possible that a patient can show no signs in the early stages of the illness, so the detection tests are especially important", confirmed Rosón, who adds that "catching a digestive tract cancer early means it can be cured".