The simple things can be the big things in life

May 1, 2013

Imagine your favorite food.  Now imagine that simple act of eating being taken away from you.  Too often we take for granted the small and simple things that make life so enjoyable.

The following story is proof that the small things, such as the ability to eat, sometimes end up being the big things in life.

Thank you to Elizabeth Martin and The Digestive Disease Institute at Virginia Mason (DDI) for sharing.


A New Appreciation for eating


Fernando Fraga is a 39-year-old artist who has visited dozens of cities exhibiting his work.  Recently he journeyed from his native Uruguay to Seattle, not to celebrate art, but to regain a normal life.

A tuberculosis infection of the lymph nodes in Fernando’s chest ravaged his esophagus, causing a life-threatening perforation.  Surgery in Uruguay to remove the heavily damaged organ saved his life but resulted in a one-month hospital stay, leaving Fernando dependent on a feeding tube.  A bag affixed to the side of his neck to catch saliva was a painfully visible mark of his illness.  After the operation, the tuberculosis required eight more months of treatment before reconstruction could be considered. The only way back to the life he knew before meant restoring the ability to eat normally. Fernando had not eaten or taken any fluids by mouth for 10 months.

Fernando’s gastroenterologist in Uruguay, Henry Cohen, MD, FACG, contacted Richard Kozarek, MD, executive director of the Digestive Disease Institute at Virginia Mason (DDI) and recent president of the World Gastroenterology Organisation (WGO).  Given Dr. Kozarek’s role, Dr. Cohen knew where to turn to help his patient.  The question was where could Fernando safely undergo the extremely difficult surgery to reconstruct his esophagus, in a chest cavity riddled with scar tissue? The answer was the Esophageal Center of Excellence, part of the DDI at Virginia Mason.  Under the direction of surgeon Donald Low, MD, FACS, FRCS(C), the mortality rate in more than 600 esophageal resections at Virginia Mason is less than 0.5 percent, compared with a national average of about 7 percent. There are no better published results in the world.

“First, we thought of travelling somewhere near Uruguay, then to other clinics inside the United States,” says Fernando. “But after seeing the curriculum vitae of Dr. Low, we knew he was the one we were looking for. We were afraid because it was really far away, it was the longest trip we could have chosen inside the U.S., and we didn’t know if I could endure the trip with my feeding tube.”

Fernando became acquainted with the DDI team long before he got on the plane. Sonia Kunz, RN, and Jean Hong, ARNP, worked to set up the rapid series of consults and procedures he would need on his arrival and stayed in regular contact with Fernando and his family. Dr. Low sent a letter from England, where he was presenting at a conference, to reassure Fernando about the planned treatment.

“After the first contacts with Dr. Low and his team, we knew that Virginia Mason was the best decision we could have made,” says Fernando. “They gave us so much confidence and peace. It seemed that they knew us from long ago.”

Surgery to restore esophageal function typically refashions the stomach to replace the organ.  To ensure Fernando’s stomach was appropriate to use to reconstruct the esophagus, he underwent a procedure known as gastroscopy.  This procedure involves inserting an endoscope — a thin, flexible instrument with a light and camera — into the body, which then transmits images to a viewing screen.

In Fernando’s case, the pediatric endoscope had to enter the small bowel through the orifice created for his feeding tube to pass up the bowel into the stomach.  This atypical procedure was managed in the DDI’s Therapeutic Endoscopy Center of Excellence.  Dr. Kozarek performed the gastroscopy and was able to assure the team his stomach was appropriate to use to restore Fernando’s ability to eat normally.

After months of planning and traveling 7,000 miles from home, Fernando and his surgical team made a bid for a renewed life of eating and swallowing, a life without the bag he could never hide.  Virginia Mason ENT (ear, nose and throat) surgeon Stephen Bayles, MD, FACS, opened Fernando’s neck to mobilize the remaining short stump of esophagus.  Dr. Low accessed Fernando’s abdominal cavity to reshape his stomach from a bag into a long tube that was extended up the neck.  A normal esophagus resides behind the heart and in front of the spine.  In Fernando’s case the area was heavily scarred due to his perforation.  To bypass the damaged area, Dr. Low created a tunnel behind the breast bone and in front of the heart to reconnect the stomach tissue with Fernando’s remaining esophagus.

Normally a patient undergoing esophageal resection, even one less complicated than Fernando’s, could expect a 10- to 15-day hospital stay.  Fernando stayed five days.  Dr. Low encouraged Fernando to stay in Seattle for at least a week to recuperate following surgery.  During his recuperation, Fernando created gifts of paintings for the members of his care team.

“It was very important for me, coming from another country and speaking Spanish to have my family with me, encouraging me all the time.  To walk, to do the exercises, to get well,” says Fernando.

Dr. Low also credits Fernando’s remarkable outcome to the highly experienced, highly coordinated clinical team that is garnering international recognition. In 2011, the Esophageal Center of Excellence hosted visiting physicians from the United States, Europe and Australia to learn firsthand how a coordinated care team in a high-volume center can improve outcomes and enhance recovery for patients.

Before leaving Seattle, Fernando tasted his first soft food in more than a year, the same way anyone else would.



The Digestive Disease Institute at Virginia Mason (DDI) is recognized as a leader in the multidisciplinary care of digestive disorders and has received international acclaim for excellent survival rates of colon, esophageal and pancreatic cancer patients. For more than 20 years, DDI’s teams of expert physicians and staff have collaborated to achieve breakthroughs in digestive disease, translating their findings into improved patient outcomes and advanced quality care.

In 2011, Virginia Mason received the 2012 HealthGrades Gastrointestinal Care Excellence AwardTM for the third year in a row. Virginia Mason also ranked No. 1 in Washington for GI Services and GI Medical Treatment, according to HealthGrades’ 2011 Healthcare Consumerism and Hospital Quality in America report.


The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation is a 501 (c) (3) non profit organization as recognized by the Internal Revenue Service.

Content found on is for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Thank you!

April 24, 2013

We want to send a shout out of thanks to everyone who has supported us, in so many different ways, throughout this past year. As anyone who has a nonprofit can tell you, the first year is the most critical…and we’re still going strong! Thanks again.

NBC 10 Health Check: Esophageal Cancer

April 16, 2013

One woman describes her battle with a rare cancer that’s rarely detected early.


NBC Health Check: Esophageal Cancer Barbara Morse Silva. Esophageal cancer, Esophageal cancer awarenes, heartburn, cancer, april is esophageal cancer awareness.

NBC 10 Health Check: Esophageal Cancer. Barbara Morse Silva


From NBC 10 Health Check: Esophageal Cancer “CRANSTON, R.I. – They are as close as it gets for mother and daughter. Even though mom, Sue Everett, lives in Lincoln, Neb., and Kate Schmitter lives in Cranston, they talk all the time.

One phone call two years ago was a life-changer.

“She called me and said the test results came back and it’s cancer. Yep,” Schmitter said.

It started months before that diagnosis.

“I had a cough,” Everett said.

It didn’t go away. Her doctor sent her to a pulmonary doctor.

“He said your lungs are fine, no problem there. So then they sent me to my (gastroenterologist),” Everett said.

That doctor scheduled her for an endoscopy to see what was going on in her esophagus and digestive tract. That’s when they found the tumor.

“I did have a lot of acid reflux. Even as a child I remember that,” Everett said.

Acid reflux is a risk factor for esophageal cancer. Everett underwent chemo and radiation therapy, and surgery. Two years later, she feels great. And she credits support and a positive attitude.

“One thing that I did for myself with the help of my husband was I made a check list and I put down every single treatment. I put down shaving my head. I put down buying a wig.  I put down everything, and I checked things off,” Everett said.

Everett said that check list got her from her cancer treatments to the end result, which is she’s symptom-free and continues to work. She’s a teacher.

Everett shares her story in hopes of raising awareness about a cancer that is often found in the late stages when it’s more difficult to treat. Acid reflux is one risk factor. Smoking and alcohol use also puts a person at higher risk.

There’s a local organization, the Salgi [Esophageal Cancer Research]Foundation, that’s raising awareness and money for research.”

By: News Channel 10 Health Reporter, Barbara Morse Silva

From Tragedy to Hope: Family Affected by

April 10, 2013

From Tragedy to Hope: Family Affected by Esophageal Cancer Fights Back via @sharethis #health #esophageal #cancer #salgi

Rhode Island recognizes April as “Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month” for the second year

March 13, 2013

This is the second year that Rhode Island has recognized April as “Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month.”  This resolution was obtained through the efforts of The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation, a Rhode Island based 501(c) (3) nonprofit charity and Representative Patricia Serpa (D – Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick).

Esophageal adenocarcinoma is amongst the fastest growing cancers. While many other types of cancers have stabilized or decreased, esophageal cancer has dramatically increased in the number of those affected by more than 400% in the past 20 years.

With risk factors which include acid reflux, obesity, smoking and excessive drinking, esophageal cancer is too often diagnosed in its later stages, which causes an alarming number of cases to be fatal.

“It is important to bring awareness about this terrible disease not only in April, but throughout the year.  We are working tirelessly to eventually have April named Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month throughout the United States,” The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation.

“There is too little known about esophageal cancer.  There is an astonishing lack of research regarding esophageal cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.”   “The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation believes that it is imperative that we receive the assistance of community members, public leaders and medical professionals to change the course of this cancer and save lives.”

cancer, esophageal cancer, research, cancer research, heartburn, acid reflux, cancer esophagus, esophagus, esophageal

Rep. Patricia Serpa with members of The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation at the Rhode Island State House in April 2012.

# # #

The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation: Established in Rhode Island on November 21, 2011 in order to raise awareness, encourage early detection and support research in hopes of a cure for esophageal cancer. The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt nonprofit organization, as recognized by the Internal Revenue Service. For more information, visit:

Esophageal Cancer Warning Signs

January 7, 2013

Diane Sawyer of ABC News discusses the dangerous warning signs associated with Esophageal Cancer.

Click here to watch the video.





Esophageal Cancer Warning Signs
ABC News, Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America
Original Air Date: Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Tips to manage GERD

November 21, 2012

Learn how to enjoy the holidays and all of the delicious food while managing your acid reflux. Here are a few tips for you to take with you to the Thanksgiving dinner table:

1. Limit beverage consumption while eating. Sometimes fluids can cause more gas in the stomach when combined with food intake. Try to drink after you are done eating.

2. Sit upright for several hours after you’ve eaten. Or even better, take a family stroll around the neighborhood to help settle your stomach and aid digestion.

3. Avoid excess alcohol consumption. There are some people however who should avoid all alcohol consumption as even the smallest amounts can cause acid reflux. Know your body and plan accordingly.

4. Don’t over-eat. Ask for a smaller plate, take a small sample from each dish and load up on your “safe” foods that you’ve predetermined do not cause you acid reflux. Is having that second helping of pumpkin pie worth the hours of pain and misery due to the acid reflux afterwards?

5. Chew slowly. Help your digestive system by chewing every bite slowly and thoroughly. Put your fork down in between bites to help remind yourself to go slow while eating.

From all of your friends at The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation, we wish you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!


“Dietary acrylamide (chips, french fries, bread, etc.) has been linked to esophageal cancer…”

November 4, 2012

The following post is from Dr. Mike Lustgarten , Scientist from Tufts University.  Dr. Lustgarten explains the link between certain cancers, including esophageal cancer and dietary acrylamide, a chemical compound found in most foods.   Research shows that acrylamide has been found to in many cooked starchy foods and as a possible carcinogen, it has even caused cancer when administererd to lab rats in high dose experiemnts. (Source)

“In an earlier article I wrote about how cooking foods at a high temperature (greater than 250ºF, including frying, baking, roasting and grilling) produces the neurotoxic and carcinogenic compound, acrylamide ( However, the adverse effects of acrylamide that I discussed were solely based on rodent studies. In this follow-up article, I’ll comprehensively discuss the evidence relating dietary acrylamide with human cancer.

Before introducing the data, it’s important to note that dietary acrylamide intake in all of the studies discussed below were calculated based on food frequency questionnaires. The highest acrylamide consuming group was approximately 40 µg/day, in comparison with low consumers of dietary acrymaide, ~10 µg /day. Without a doubt these values for dietary acrylamide intake are underestimated-for example, 1 ounce of Pringles potato chips contains 70 µg of acrylamide, and the commonly thought of as “healthier chips”, Baked Lays has 31µg/ounce (1 bag of chips).

 Esophageal cancer   One small study (987 subjects) found a 23% increased risk for esophageal cancer, and an 88% increased risk in those with a BMI greater than 25. In two other studies (Pellucchi et al. 2006, Hogervorst et al. 2008), no association between dietary acrylamide and esophageal cancer was found.

Head-neck cancer  Increased risk for oral-cavity cancer in female non-smokers in a large study (121,000 subjects; Schouten et al. 2009) was found. No association for oral cavity, pharynx or larynx cancer in a smaller study (1500-6000 subjects; Pellucchi et al. 2006)

Kidney Cancer   Although risk of kidney cancer was significantly increased by 59%, it appears as if this data was skewed by smokers. In non-smokers, risk of kidney cancer was not significant (Pellucchi et al. 2006). No association between dietary acrylamide and risk of kidney cancer was also identified in three additional studies (Mucci et al. 2003, Mucci et al. 2004, Pellucchi et al. 2007).

Gastric, Colon, Rectal cancer   A small study with 1129 subjects found a 40% decreased risk of large bowel cancer (Mucci et al. 2003). Four studies have not found a similar association (Pellucchi et al. 2006, Mucci et al. 2006, Hogervorst et al. 2008, Larsson et al. 2009).

Lung Cancer   A 55% decreased risk of lung cancer, in women was identified by Hogervorst et al. (2009).

Bladder cancer   Significant only in smokers, as 15+ cigarettes/day significantly increased risk of bladder cancer in those with the highest dietary acrylamide intake, relative to the lowest intake (Hogervorst et al. 2008).

Blood cancer   Multiple myeloma and follicular myeloma were found to be significantly increased by 14% and 28% for every 10 µg increment in dietary acrylamide (Bongers et al. 2012).

Breast Cancer  Six large epidemiological studies (ranging from 33,000-120,000 subjects) and 1 smaller study (1500-6000 subjects) investigated the association between dietary acrylamide and breast cancer risk. Of these, 1 study, the UK Women’s Cohort Study identified a 20% significantly increased risk between acrylamide intake and premenopausal breast cancer (Burley et al. 2011). The other six studies did not show an association between acrylamide intake and breast cancer risk (Pellucchi et al. 2006, Hogervorst et al. 2007, Pedersen et al. 2009, Larsson et al. 2009, Wilson et al. 2009, Wilson et al.2010).

Endometrial Cancer   Three large epidemiological studies have investigated the association between dietary acrylamide and endometrial cancer. In two of these studies, risk of cancer was increased by 41% and 99%, respectively (Wilson et al. 2010, Hogervorst et al. 2007). No association between dietary acrylamide intake and risk of endometrial cancer was found in the Swedish Mammography Study (Larsson et al. 2009).

Ovarian Cancer   No association between dietary acrylamide and risk of ovarian cancer was found in the small- scale Italian Cohort study, or, in 2 large-scale epidemiological studies (Pellucchi et al. 2006, Larsson et al. 2009, Wilson et al. 2010). However, a 122% increased risk for ovarian cancer in non-smokers was found in the Netherlands Cohort Study on Diet and Cancer (Hogervorst et al. 2007).

Prostate, Pancreatic, Brain Cancer   Five separate studies found no association between dietary acrylamide and risk of prostate cancer (Pellucchi et al. 2006, Hogervorst et al. 2008, Wilson et al. 2009, Larsson et al. 2009, Wilson et al. 2012). Similarly, pancreatic cancer risk is not increased (Pelucchi et al. 2011, Hogervorst et al. 2008), nor is brain cancer (Hogervorst et al. 2009), or, thyroid cancer (Schouten et al. 2009).

Conclusions   The easy interpretation of scientific studies is that if six studies show no effect and one study shows a positive effect, that the no effect-data is the real answer. For example, in the case of breast cancer, six studies showed no effect, whereas one study showed a significant association between acrylamide and premenopausal breast cancer. Should we conclude that there is no risk for breast cancer? As I mentioned earlier, it is likely that total dietary acrylamide intake was underestimated, and therefore, it is my opinion that none of the 25 studies should have shown an association between acrylamide and cancer. Therefore, that there was indeed a significant association for breast cancer with potentially underestimated acrylamide values is significant. Also, dietary acrylamide was shown to be significantly associated with myeloma, head-neck cancer, esophageal cancer, endometrial cancer and ovarian cancer. Paradoxically, dietary acrylamide reduced risk of lung and large bowel cancer.

What should someone who is interested in optimal health do with this information? Knowing that dietary acrylamide is indeed significantly associated with increased risk of human cancers, I would reduce or eliminate cooking food at a high temperature. I have!”


For more information regarding dietary acrylamide and to read Dr. Lustgarten’s refrences, click here

To follow Dr. Lustgarten on Twitter, click here


The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation is a 501 (c) (3) non profit organization as recognized by the Internal Revenue Service.

Content found on is for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


Want to help? Here are some ways!

October 6, 2012

Donate: It may sound simple, but donations are one of the few ways that our charity will survive. Even one dollar can help us take one step closer to achieving our mission of spreading awareness, encouraging early detection and supporting research of esophageal cancer in hopes of a cure. If you would like to make a contribution, please visit:

Volunteer: Join us for our upcoming events! We had tremendous success this past year at our first ever annual ‘Esophageal Cancer Walk.’ This is an annual event and a lot of fun, so please consider lending a hand or two! We also plan to host other events. You may volunteer to assist us before, during or after our events. Our volunteers can also receive college/school credit for any volunteer hours needed. Have an idea for an event? Email us! We’d love to hear from you!

Spread the word: Raising awareness for this horrific disease is as important as raising funding is to support research. Be sure to “like” us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, add us to your circles on Google+, follow and re-pin with us on Pinterest and subscribe to our blogs. Invite your friends, family, colleagues, clients and acquaintances to do the same as well! Start letting everyone you know what Salgi does and how they can also get involved! You can start by forwarding someone this post!

Fundraise: Back to our first point, donations are essential to keeping our charity alive and prospering. If you would like to throw your own fundraiser, let us know and we can provide our written consent. We might also be able to guest speak, provide you with pamphlets and help educate others about esophageal cancer, prevention and awareness. Remember, we are a 501c3 nonprofit charity so anything that is donated goes DIRECTLY to our charity and all donations are tax-free!

Need some fun fundraising ides? Plan a girls night out, throw a football party, have a yard sale, invite guests over for a wine and cheese party, throw a Halloween party. If throwing a party or night out, you can ask your guests to “buy a ticket” to your soirée and let them know the funds are going directly to Salgi. If you have a yard sale, include in your advertising and postings that all proceeds will benefit Salgi.

Planning a BIGGER party? (I.e. Wedding, Birthday, Bat Mitzvah, Bar Mitzvah, Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation, Sweet Sixteen, Engagement Party, etc…)  Make a considerate donation to Salgi in the name of your guests in lieu of favors.  Please contact us with questions!

You can also ask companies and businesses to donate to our charity! For instance, you can ask your favorite coffee shop to donate a percentage of their sales from a particular product to Salgi.  Remember, all donations are tax-deductable!


If you have any questions, comments or another idea that wasn’t mentioned, please contact us! We would love to hear from you!


Manage GERD symptoms with these helpful tips.

October 1, 2012

GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease is a medical condition where contents from the stomach leak or reflux backwards into the esophagus.

This can cause acid reflux, heartburn, other painful symptoms and can damage the esophagus.

If you are living with GERD or suffer from acid reflux, you should consult with your doctor to receive the proper medical care.

The following are suggestions to manage your GERD symptoms and live a more comfortable life.

  1. Limit your intake of the following foods: fatty foods, chocolate, coffee, alcohol, mint and acidic food and drinks.
  2. Exercise. For some people, light to moderate exercise can help manage GERD symtpoms.
  3. Lose weight. Fat tissues in the abdomen compress the stomach with causes more reflux from the stomach.
  4. Limit the amount of water or beverages you consume during meals.
  5. Stop smoking. Smoking has been shown to increase symptoms and can cause coughing which aggravates GERD.
  6. Sleep with your head elevated to avoid GERD symptoms when resting or sleeping.
  7. Avoid any abdominal pressures. Limit heavy weight lifting, work and tight clothes
  8. Certain medications can aggravate GERD. It is important to consult with your doctor about GERD and medications.




The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation is a 501 (c) (3) non profit organization as recognized by the Internal Revenue Service.

Content found on is for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.