Country western superstar, actress, author and philanthropist, Dolly Parton, recently underwent surgery in an effort to save her golden singing voice and reduce the risk of cancer due to issues she had suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Prior to her surgery, “the illness, which she has endured for years, was supposedly worsening and caused a dramatic 20-pound weight loss,” according to Extra.
On July 28, the Esophageal Cancer Action Network (ECAN) issued a release in the hopes that the surgery Dolly underwent to address her reflux disease will help raise awareness for others about the cancer risk posed by this disease.
ECAN is the only national non-profit advocacy organization dedicated to saving lives by increasing public awareness about the link between reflux disease, commonly referred to as GERD, and esophageal cancer, one of the fastest increasing cancer diagnoses in the United States.
“Dolly Parton’s efforts to address her reflux disease present an important opportunity to educate the public about a potentially deadly condition most people think of as benign,” said ECAN President and CEO Mindy Mintz Mordecai.
“It is very important that those suffering from heartburn or other GERD symptoms speak to their healthcare provider about their symptoms,” said Dr. Bruce Greenwald, ECAN board chairman and professor of gastroenterology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Greenebaum Cancer Center.
“In some cases, severe disease may be present, which can be detected best by upper endoscopy (EGD), a safe outpatient procedure.”
Parton underwent surgery after her GERD symptoms became so severe that she feared her reflux could lead to cancer.
A LINX device, which is made up of a circle of tiny magnetic titanium beads, was reportedly implanted around the junction of her stomach and esophagus.
LINX allows food to be swallowed as normal, but blocks the flow of acid back into the esophagus or food pipe. This procedure was cleared by the FDA in March 2012. Studies have shown LINX to be effective in dramatically reducing reflux symptoms, though no studies have shown it to prevent cancer.
In the United States, the type of esophageal cancer caused by reflux disease has increased by more than 400 percent in the past 20 years. That rapid rise means that today one American dies of esophageal cancer every 36 minutes.
ECAN promotes awareness because the disease is usually caught at late stages, when treatment is rarely effective. That’s why it has one of the worst survival rates of any cancer; fewer than one in five esophageal cancer patients will survive five years.
Esophageal cancer and its precursor, Barrett’s Esophagus, have no real symptoms until the cancer reaches advanced stages when treatment is often too late.
ECAN works to inform the public of these major factors that put individuals like Dolly Parton at risk to develop the deadly disease:
- You have more than occasional heartburn symptoms.
- You have experienced heartburn in the past, but the symptoms have gone away.
- You have a family history of Esophageal Cancer or Barrett’s Esophagus.
- You have any pain or difficulty swallowing.
- You have a persistent, unexplained cough.
- You have been speaking with a hoarse voice over several weeks.
- You have a persistent, unexplained sore throat.
- You cough or choke when you lie down.
Mordecai went on to say that, “if the disease is caught when pre-cancerous, or even in early cancer stages, new outpatient ablation procedures that zap those cells are actually showing promise as a way to cure patients.”
“That makes early detection of Esophageal Cancer different from many other cancers. Some studies have shown 97 percent of those undergoing ablation procedures in early stages have no recurrence of disease.”
With the assistance of more than 100 doctors across the nation, ECAN has created a free, downloadable publication that provides important information to help members of the public understand their risk and what they should do about it. The “Guide for Patients” and other useful information about the link between heartburn and cancer can be found at www.ecan.org.
An attorney and former journalist, Mordecai founded ECAN after the disease took the life of her husband, Monte Mordecai, in 2008. The national organization based in Baltimore is directed by a distinguished group of doctors, business leaders and families affected by esophageal cancer.
For additional information on esophageal cancer and early detection, visit the ECAN website.
Dolly Parton has composed over 3,000 songs, the best known of which include “I Will Always Love You”, “Jolene”, “Coat of Many Colors”,”9 to 5″, and “My Tennessee Mountain Home”.
We wish Dolly well in her post surgery recovery.
For more on the the life and career of the multi-generational fan favorite, Dolly Parton, see the video accompanying this article.
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