Do you suffer from heartburn? Do you realize that heartburn can actually put you at increased risk of esophageal cancer? If you have ever had even one instance of heartburn, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), you know how painful and unsettling it can be. GERD affects about 15 million people each year in the United States. GERD occurs when a backflow of stomach acid makes its way into the esophagus, causing irritation and sometimes damage to the lining of the esophagus. GERD usually causes a burning sensation that rises from the stomach into the chest, often worse after eating or when lying down. It may also present as a sour, bitter taste, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness or persistent cough.
There are several things you can do to decrease GERD symptoms. The professionals at Elms Digestive Disease Specialists strongly suggest stopping smoking, loosen tight clothing, don't lie down for 2-3 hours after eating, eat smaller meals, and avoid eating fatty, fried foods or trigger foods such as coffee, soda, alcohol, and spicy foods. If your heartburn or GERD remains uncontrolled it can lead to a more serious condition called Barrett's esophagus. Barrett's esophagus occurs when normal esophagus cells exposed to frequent stomach acid are replaced by intestinal cells. This change increases the risk of developing esophageal cancer, especially if GERD is not properly treated. Barrett's esophagus is found in up to 15% of people suffering from chronic heartburn.