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Study links chronic heartburn to esophageal cancer

Over the past 20 years, the incidence of esophageal cancer, a highly fatal form of cancer, has rapidly increased in the United States. A recent research study has linked chronic, longstanding, untreated heartburn with an increased risk of developing esophageal cancer. As reported by Lagergren et al. in the study that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, patients who experienced chronic, unresolved heartburn markedly increase the risk of esophageal cancer, a rare but often deadly malignancy. According to the study, the incidence of adenocarcinoma of the esophagus was nearly eight times more likely among frequent heartburn sufferers (two times a week or more) compared to individuals without symptoms, while among patients with longstanding, severe and unresolved heartburn (e.g. frequent symptoms 20 years duration), the risk of developing esophageal cancer was 43.5 times as great as for those without chronic heartburn.

Persistent symptoms of heartburn and reflux should not be ignored. By seeing your doctor early, the physical cause of GERD can be treated and more serious problems avoided.

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Some key points to remember about GERD

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    Heartburn is a common, but not trivial condition. In fact, if left untreated, longstanding, severe and chronic heartburn has been linked with esophageal cancer. Don’t ignore frequent heartburn — instead consult with your physician regarding an endoscopy and treatment to achieve early symptom resolution.

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      If you suffer infrequent heartburn, antacids, or H2 blockers (now available without a prescription) or proton pump inhibitors (pending release at reduced strength over-the-counter dosages) may provide the relief you need.

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    If you are experiencing heartburn two or more times a week, you may have acid reflux disease, also known as GERD, which, if left untreated, is potentially serious.

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      If you are self-medicating for heartburn two or more times a week, or if you still have symptoms on your over-the-counter or prescription medication, you need to see a doctor and perhaps be referred to a gastroenterologist.

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    GERD has a physical cause that’s not your fault and can only be treated by a physician.

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      If left untreated, longstanding, severe and chronic heartburn/GERD has been linked with esophageal cancer. Don’t ignore frequent heartburn — instead consult with your physician regarding an endoscopy and treatment to achieve early symptom resolution.

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    GERD has a significant role in asthma, chronic cough and ear, nose and throat problems — all referred to as extra-esophageal manifestations (EEM) although this connection may often go unrecognized. GERD should be actively considered in physician evaluations of these conditions, or it could go undetected.

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    With effective treatment, using the range of prescription medications and other treatments available today, you can become symptom free, avoid potential complications and restore the quality of life you deserve.

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