Could My Heartburn Actually Cause Cancer?

Category: Digestive Care

Most people who experience heartburn after eating unhealthy, greasy foods may take over-the-counter medications and wait for the discomfort to go away.

What a lot of people don’t know is that, if you get heartburn more than two or three times a week, it could be a symptom for a much more serious condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Though GERD is treatable, if it’s left untreated, it can lead to esophageal cancer.

How Does GERD Turn into Esophageal Cancer?

It’s not uncommon for people to live with GERD for decades before seeking medical treatment. In the time that GERD is left untreated, the acid in the esophagus can cause Barrett’s Esophagus, a precancerous stage that can eventually lead to esophageal cancer. Symptoms of GERD usually disappear during the Barrett’s Esophagus phase, which means that it’s often left untreated. The longer its left untreated, the more likely someone is to get esophageal cancer.

Screening for Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer is one of the most deadly kinds of cancer, but it’s also one of the most rare. Because only about 17,000 people are diagnosed with the cancer each year, it’s not recommended that everyone get screened.

However, if you have any of the following symptoms, you need to contact a physician immediately:

  • Had regular heartburn in the past and continue to have heartburn regularly – If you have severe heartburn more than once or twice a week, it’s recommended that you see a doctor so they can perform diagnostic tests to examine your esophagus
  • Have pain or difficulty while swallowing
  • Have a family history with Barrett’s Esophagus or esophageal cancer
  • Have a continuous hoarse voice or sore throat
  • Cough easily when you lie down

Gastroenterologists in Hinsdale and Downers Grove, IL

The team of gastroenterologists at Digestive Health Services, SC can answer any questions you might have about esophageal cancer.

Call us at Digestive Health Services, SC (630) 434-9312 to schedule an appointment today.