Can Heartburn Lead to Cancer?

Esophageal cancer and heartburn connection explained

(RxWiki News) About 40 percent of all Americans suffer from heartburn every month. And 25 million Americans have a burning feeling in their upper chest every day. Heartburn is nothing to mess around with. It can become deadly.

A new information guide - written for patients - offers important news about how heartburn can progress and potentially cause esophageal cancer, the fastest growing malignancy in the U.S.

"If you have heartburn, speak with your doctor."

The nonprofit group - Esophageal Cancer Action Network (ECAN) - produced the free online guide - Heartburn Can Cause Cancer.

“People don’t realize how dangerous heartburn can be and making the symptoms go away won’t prevent you from developing cancer," said Mindy Mintz Mordecai, ECAN’s President and CEO. "We want people to understand the risks and get screened, so it can be caught early enough to save their lives.”

Mordecai founded ECAN after the loss of her husband to esophageal cancer in 2008.

No one wants an esophageal cancer diagnosis. It's one of the most deadly - only 20 of those diagnosed with esophageal cancer are still alive five years later. These low survival rates have to do with the fact that esophageal cancer is usually diagnosed at later stages.

So this guide is designed to help people who have heartburn, encouraging them to get screened, so the disease can be detected earlier, which will save lives.

ECAN Chairman, Dr. Bruce Greenwald, professor of medicine and a gastroentrologist at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center, said the guide "breaks new ground" by presenting information agreed upon by dozens of different specialists from around the country.

“Because there are currently no clear guidelines about who should be screened for esophageal cancer or Barrett’s esophagus, this is valuable information patients can use to be advocates for their own healthcare.”

This project was supported by a grant from CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield.  

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Review Date: 
August 2, 2012