Heartburn can cause cancer: New guide for patients

Every day, an estimated 25 million American adults suffer from heartburn. Some experts believe that 40 percent of adults experience heartburn every month. Despite these staggering statistics, few people understand the real risk that Heartburn can cause Cancer.

The Esophageal Cancer Action Network (ECAN) has produced a free guide that provides patients with information about Reflux Disease and its connection to Barrett’s Esophagus and Esophageal Cancer.  The guide will enable patients who suffer from heartburn to begin a conversation with their physicians and be better-informed advocates for their own health. 

“People don’t realize how dangerous heartburn can be and making the symptoms go away won’t prevent you from developing cancer.  We want people to understand the risks and get screened, so it can be caught early enough to save their lives,” said Mindy Mintz Mordecai, ECAN’s President and CEO.  She founded ECAN after the loss of her husband to Esophageal Cancer in 2008.

Presently, only one in five patients diagnosed with Esophageal Cancer will survive five years, largely because the disease is usually detected at late stages. But, if Esophageal Cancer is caught in its early stages, or even before it becomes cancerous, patients have a good chance for survival.

ECAN Chairman Dr. Bruce Greenwald, Professor of Medicine and a Gastroentrologist at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center said, “This Guide breaks new ground by presenting information that doctors from around the country and from different related specialties all agree upon.  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.”

Supported with a $15,000 grant from health insurer CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, the Patient Guide was created using an innovative online collaboration tool that involved more than 100 doctors from around the nation.  The guide presents the information in simple language, without confusing medical terminology.

The guide suggests you should talk to your doctor about your concerns if:

  1. You have more than occasional heartburn symptoms.
  2. You have experienced heartburn in the past, but the symptoms have gone away.
  3. You have any pain or difficulty swallowing
  4. You have a persistent, unexplained cough.
  5. You have been speaking with a hoarse voice over several weeks.
  6. You have a persistent, unexplained sore throat.
  7. You cough or choke when lying down.

The Guide is available for easy download at ECAN’S website: http://www.ecan.org/site/PageNavigator/Patient_Guide.html

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