Acid reflux can cause esophageal cancer

Each year, the month of April is dedicated to the observance of Esophageal Cancer Awareness and education regarding the risk of Esophageal Cancer posed by persistent heartburn or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease.)

Adenocarcinoma is increasing at a faster rate than any other cancer in the U.S. Only one in every five esophageal cancer patients survives five years after diagnosis due to the disease most commonly being detected in the late stages.

An estimated one in every five American adults suffers from GERD. This is a chronic condition caused by changes in the lower esophageal valve that allows contents to flow from the stomach back into the esophagus. Left untreated, GERD can become a lifelong disease that often can lead to bothersome symptoms and potentially more serious health conditions such as esophageal cancer.

Typical symptoms of GERD include a burning sensation in the chest (heartburn), regurgitation of food or sour liquid (acid reflux) and difficulty swallowing. Other symptoms of GERD that are not as common include the sensation of a lump in the throat, asthma, chronic dry cough, chronic sore throat, laryngitis and hoarseness, dental erosions and non-cardiac chest pain.

The acid your stomach produces is important for digestion, killing harmful bacteria, and helping with the absorption of electrolytes and other nutrients from the foods you consume. GERD occurs when the valve between the stomach and the esophagus is not working properly and fails to keep acid and stomach contents in the stomach. When left untreated, GERD can lead to other serious health complications, including respiratory issues, inflammation or narrowing of the esophagus, damage to the throat or lining of the esophagus, and esophageal cancer.

“Esophageal cancer is deadly and is increasing at a faster rate than any other cancer in the United States,” said Dr. Andrew Loveitt, reflux specialist at the Minnesota Reflux and Heartburn Center (MRHC) at Riverwood Healthcare Center. “If you are having reflux and heartburn symptoms several times a week or more, come see us. We offer comprehensive diagnostic testing that will help us diagnose your specific condition, including whether or not you have a precancerous condition called Barrett’s esophagus, and develop a customized treatment plan for you.”

Lifestyle changes and medications may offer mild GERD control, but they don’t stop or prevent reflux. The MRHC team of reflux specialists performs endoscopic and minimally invasive procedures that help rebuild and restore proper function to the gastroesophageal valve and provide acid reflux relief.

For more information or an appointment, call Dawn Harcey, GI clinical coordinator at Riverwood, at 218-429-3930, or email Visit, click on services, then reflux and heartburn.