This April, as part of Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month, the Minnesota Reflux & Heartburn Center is increasing awareness about the risk of esophageal cancer posed by persistent reflux or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).
An estimated one in every five American adults suffers from GERD, which is a chronic condition caused by changes in the gastroesophageal valve that allow stomach contents to flow back up into the esophagus. Left untreated, GERD can be a lifelong disease and lead to bothersome symptoms and potentially other life-threatening health conditions.
Adenocarcinoma, the type of cancer typically caused by long-term reflux disease or GERD, is increasing at a faster rate than any other cancer in the U.S. Esophageal Cancer takes more American lives each year than melanoma skin cancer or cervical cancer, with one in every five patients diagnosed surviving only five years, as it is often caught in the late stages.
GERD is an anatomical issue that occurs when the valve between the stomach and the esophagus is not working properly and fails to keep contents in the stomach from washing back up into the esophagus. Medications or life-style modifications may offer mild symptom control, but they do not stop or prevent reflux. Additionally, those who are or may become dependent on daily medication may develop severe complications from GERD, even if no symptoms are experienced. When left untreated, GERD can lead to other health complications including damage to the throat or esophagus, inflammation or narrowing of the esophagus, respiratory complications, Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer.
The best way to diagnose GERD, Barrett’s Esophagus or esophageal cancer is to talk to your doctor about your symptoms and arrange an endoscopic examination.
“Early detection is the key,” said Dr. Paul Severson, reflux specialist and director of the Minnesota Reflux & Heartburn Center. “If you are reaching for antacids more than twice a week, it’s time to see a doctor. If your current medications aren’t working well enough, it’s time to get tested as alternative therapies could be right for you.”
Dr. Severson will appear on the KKIN Radio Community Connections show on Tues., April 20, 8:00 to 8:30 a.m. to talk about GERD and esophageal cancer risks.
Comprehensive GERD care available locally
The Minnesota Reflux & Heartburn Center (MRHC) provides comprehensive testing and a full menu of endoscopic and minimally invasive therapies for patients with GERD, heartburn and swallowing difficulties. With the latest training and equipment, specialists are also able to diagnose and eradicate Barrett’s esophagus and treat esophageal cancer in the earliest stages. MRHC specialists are available for appointments at Cuyuna Regional Medical Center in Crosby and Riverwood Healthcare Center in Aitkin.
The best way to find Barrett’s esophagus or esophageal cancer is to talk to your doctor about your symptoms and determine next steps. The next steps may include requesting that you undergo an upper endoscopy (EGD) or other diagnostic procedures to investigate the esophagus and evaluate its condition. It is important to know that there are endoscopic and minimally invasive procedures that can help rebuild and restore proper function to the faulty gastroesophageal valve and relieve GERD.”
MRHC provides comprehensive testing and a full menu of endoscopic and minimally invasive therapies for patients with GERD, heartburn and swallowing difficulties. With the latest training and equipment, specialists are also able to diagnose and eradicate Barrett’s esophagus and treat esophageal cancer in the earliest stages.
Reflux specialists are available for appointments at Riverwood Healthcare Center in Aitkin or at Cuyuna Regional Medical Center (CRMC) in Crosby.
For a GERD evaluation at Riverwood in Aitkin, call Dawn Harcey, RN/GI clinical coordinator, at 218-429-3930, or for an appointment at CRMC in Crosby call 218-545-2876 or 844-200-BURN (2876). For more information, visit www.mnheartburn.org