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Local Program Revamps to Help Fight Emerging Epidemic


Norton Thoracic Institute Hires Specialist to Meet Growing Patient Need.

The number of Americans with esophageal disorders is on the rise, and according to the National Cancer Institute, esophageal cancer is now the fastest-growing cancer in the United States. With this in mind, Norton Thoracic Institute at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center has increased its focus on esophageal disease services.

The esophagus is the muscular tube that connects your throat and your stomach. An expert in esophageal disorders and diseases and the growing program’s new surgical director, Sumeet Mittal, MD, calls gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) a possible epidemic of our time.

“There could be millions of undiagnosed cases, which is unsettling,” explains Dr. Mittal, who is also a tenured professor of surgery at Creighton University School of Medicine. “While acid reflux might not sound that bad it should not be ignored.

Not only do esophageal disorders like GERD interfere with daily life, they can also lead to serious health problems such as Barret’s esophagus and esophageal cancer, and may contribute to lung disease.

“The most common treatment for GERD addresses only the heartburn and does not remedy the underlying cause. A majority of patients suffer from lost sleep and report poor quality of life along with a decline in activity due to continued symptoms,” Dr. Mittal says. “At Norton Thoracic Institute, we treat the root of the problem to provide long-term relief for patients with this condition.”

Home to one of the nation’s top rated lung transplant programs, Norton Thoracic Institute is headquartered at St. Joseph’s in downtown Phoenix and specializes in the evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the lungs, chest or esophagus. In addition, St Joseph’s is among just a handful of hospitals participating in a new FDA trial for GERD. The trial involves a new technology which could offer treatment options to a large number of patients who are not ideal candidates for other interventions but continue to have troublesome reflux.

“We are pleased to welcome Dr. Mittal and his unique expertise to our very active esophageal disease team to help grow our clinical and research initiatives,” says Ross Bremner, MD, director of Norton Thoracic Institute. “Esophageal disease is on the rise and esophageal cancer is reaching epidemic proportions, increasing in incidence faster than any other cancer. Our top priorities are patient satisfaction, and providing accurate diagnosis, effective treatment and education for patients about lifestyle changes they can make to help manage their condition. We believe there is a huge opportunity to partner with our patients and our community to effectively combat esophageal disease, and help patients return to a quality of life that they may have thought was no longer attainable.”

Dr. Mittal earned his medical degree from the All Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, India. He then completed his residency at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., followed by a fellowship in thoracic and foregut surgery at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Prior to joining the team at Norton Thoracic Institute, Dr. Mittal served as the director of esophageal surgery at Creighton University Medical Center.