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Acid reflux can cause esophageal cancer

The month of April is dedicated to promoting Esophageal Cancer Awareness and education around the risk posed by persistent heartburn or acid reflux disease.

An estimated one in every five American adults suffers from gastroesophageal reflux disease (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.

Typical symptoms of GERD include a burning sensation in the chest (heartburn), regurgitation of food or sour liquid (acid reflux) and difficulty swallowing (dysphagia). 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. Only one in five esophageal cancer patients will survive five years because it is often not caught until the later stages.

The best way to learn if you have a precancerous condition called Barrett’s esophagus or esophageal cancer is to talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms and determine next steps.

The Minnesota Reflux and Heartburn Center (MRHC) at Riverwood Healthcare Center offers a range of diagnostic tests and comprehensive care for GERD.

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 dharcey@rwhealth.org  See reflux and heartburn care at Riverwood or visit www.GERDHelp.com