Mike Marvich already knows he's a lucky man. A check up for a painful acid reflux condition turned up a much more dangerous threat: cancer.
"Pre-cancer cells that were accelerating, moving very fast towards full cancer and I happened to diagnose it down here just in the nick of time," Marvich said.
Surgeons removed the cancerous tissue area. A team at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco is going to use a high-tech device to help make sure those cancer cells are gone for good. "This catheter houses the world's tiniest medical microscope," Dr. Yasser Bhat said.
Bhat uses the miniaturized microscope, known as Cellvizio, to re-examine the area and then go after any remaining cancer cells. "So therefore we are more confident that we hopefully removed areas that are risky and haven't left anything behind," he said.
The camera is inserted through an endoscope into the patient's esophagus with the help of an imaging dye ingested in the patient's blood. The powerful microscope will magnify the view more than 1,000 times allowing Bhat to examine individual cells visible on a monitor.
Although Marvich is clear of cancer cells, Bhat has identified tissue damaged by a condition called Barrett's esophagus, which could leave it vulnerable to cancer in the future. To cut that risk, he adds a second instrument into the endoscope. "That allows us to essentially deliver really cold energy, minus 196 degrees," he said.
The procedure is known as Cryoablation and over the course of a few minutes Bhat destroys the damaged tissue layer by freezing it. "These cells will overtime sort of die off and what would be in its place is normal esophagus tissue," he said.
Bhat says that the diagnostic microscope, combined with the catheter-based treatment is not only effective, but also far less invasive than what was available just a few years ago. "Maybe five years ago or 10 years ago you would've had surgery for it. You would've had your esophagus removed and I'm confident his tumor is gone and he's basically cured," he said
The microscope can also be used to identify potential cancers in almost the entire gastro-intestinal tract, including the esophagus, stomach, colon, and pancreas.