Acid Reflux May Be Tied To Spike In Lethal Esophageal Adenocarcinoma
by Stephen Perrine, AARP Bulletin, June 2018
Many people dont realize that common heartburn symptoms can both lead to and mask something more serious.
One out of 5 Americans experience heartburn or acid reflux on a weekly basis 40 percent of us deal with it at least once a month. In many cases, we just blame the hot sauce and take an over-the-counter medicine to remedy it. Perhaps its time to think differently.
Esophageal adenocarcinoma cancer of the lining of the soft tube that delivers food and drink from the mouth to the stomach has increased sevenfold since the early 1970s, says Paul Oberstein, director of the gastrointestinal medical oncology program at NYU Langones Perlmutter Cancer Center in Manhattan. The American Cancer Society estimates that 15,850 Americans will die of esophageal cancer this year. Eighty-five percent of esophageal cancers are found in people 55 and older roughly four times as many men get the disease as women.
Its one of the fastest-growing issues we have in our population, says David Odell, assistant professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, thoracic surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and lead investigator on a study of esophageal cancer funded by the American Cancer Society.
Bottom line, says Odell: If you have reflux, discuss it with your physician to make sure theres nothing else going on. And if you have difficulty swallowing, see your doctor immediately it could be the first sign of a tumor.
When Heartburn Goes Untreated
You probably know that heartburn is actually a misnomer, as it has nothing to with the heart. Instead, it happens when the acid our stomach uses to digest food travels up into the esophagus, damaging it.
When it continues for a long time, a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease , or GERD, occurs.
If its not treated, GERD can lead to the following escalating series of illnesses:
- Esophagitis: Inflammation in the lining of the esophagus, often due to stomach acid.
- Barretts esophagus: If GERD continues, the cells that line the esophagus begin to change in ways that make cancer more likely. Identifying and curing this condition before it turns into cancer is a key way to prevent it.
- Esophageal cancer: This is among the rarest but also the most serious threats of long-term heartburn.
Not everyone with esophageal cancer experiences heartburn. More than 40 percent of people with Barretts esophagus dont have heartburn or other symptoms.
In these patients, doctors sometimes find esophagus damage by accident when hes examining them for other reasons.
But not everyone has an equal risk for esophageal cancer. And those who are at higher risk should pay extra attention.
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How Does Excessive Belching Help Diagnose Cancer
When you experience excessive belching with other worrisome symptoms, it can be helpful in diagnosing more serious conditions like cancer. Remember, excessive belching as a single symptom doesnt necessarily mean cancer is present.
In order to diagnose conditions related to excessive belching , your doctor may order the following tests:
- CT scan. A CT scan is a type of imaging that takes cross-sectional pictures of a particular area of the body. In an abdominal CT scan, you are able to see all the organs in your abdominal area.
- Endoscopy. In this procedure, your doctor inserts a thin, lighted tube into your mouth and down your esophagus while youre sedated. The doctor can then see into your stomach and can take biopsies if needed.
- Barium swallow study. This special type of X-ray is taken after you drink barium, which lights up certain areas of your GI tract.
Treatment for excessive belching will depend on the cause. When belching is caused by something thats not serious, lifestyle changes are often all that is needed to get rid of it. These changes can include:
- taking a walk after eating
- avoiding carbonated beverages and chewing gum
- trying to eat and drink more slowly
If your excessive belching is related to a cancer diagnosis, treatments may include:
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What Is Acid Reflux
After you eat, the muscle at the end of your esophagus known as the esophageal sphincter ordinarily closes to keep food where it’s supposed to be: in your stomach. According to the National Institute of Health , gastroesophageal reflux, or GER, occurs when the sphincter becomes weak and allows your stomach contents to come back up. The result? That tell-tale burning sensation in the middle of the chest. When someone experiences heartburn on the regular, it can become a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease .
Persistent Heartburn May Be A Sign Of Cancer Campaign Warns
People with persistent heartburn are being urged to visit their GP as it may be a sign of cancer, according to a new campaign by Public Health England .
Heartburn is a burning chest pain or discomfort, which is usually worse after eating.
Although most people experience occasional heartburn, those suffering from heartburn most days over an extended period three weeks or more are being advised to visit their doctor.
The new ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign highlights two possible symptoms of oesophageal or stomach cancer collectively known as oesophago-gastric cancers persistent heartburn or difficulty swallowing food.
Cancer Research UK’s early diagnosis manager, Matthew Wickenden, stressed that while the chances that these symptoms are cancer are low, it’s still important to visit the doctor to get them checked.
Figures released by Public Health England showed that more than half of people would not visit their GP if they were experiencing heartburn for three weeks or more, while less than one in five people were certain that heartburn was a sign of cancer.
Other signs of oesophageal or stomach cancer include:
- indigestion on and off for three weeks or more
- feeling food sticking in your throat when you swallow
- losing weight for no obvious reason
- trapped wind and frequent burping
- feeling full very quickly when eating
- nausea or vomiting
- pain or discomfort in top of stomach
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When Gallstones Are Present
If a gallstone is blocking one of the pancreatic ducts, the gallstone will also need to be removed. If it is mild disease, the surgery should be done within seven days of acute pancreatitis. If it is severe disease, you may be advised to wait until after active inflammation subsides to try to prevent future episodes of pancreatitis.
A computer axial tomography scan may also be used to find out what is happening in and around the pancreas and the severity of the problem. This is important information that the doctor will use to determine when to remove the gallstones.
After the gallstones are removed and inflammation subsides, the pancreas usually returns to normal.
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What Causes Chronic Heartburn
Heartburn is a familiar experience for most people, even if it only occurs after eating a lot of spicy, fatty, acidic, or fried foods. Indeed, according to the American College of Gastroenterology, the burning feeling associated with heartburn affects an estimated 15 million Americans every day and 60 million Americans at least once a month. But for many people, heartburn isnt just an occasional nuisance after indulging in hot wings rather, it is an unpleasant, chronic condition that is also known as GERD.
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How Sex Might Be Affected
With some types of radiation therapy involving the pelvis and/or sex organs, men and women may notice changes in their ability to enjoy sex or a decrease in their level of desire.
For women: During radiation treatment to the pelvis, some women are told not to have sex. Some women may find sex painful. Treatment can also cause vaginal itching, burning, and dryness. You most likely will be able to have sex within a few weeks after treatment ends, but check with your doctor first. Some types of treatment can have long-term effects, such as scar tissue that could affect the ability of the vagina to stretch during sex. Again, your cancer care team can offer ways to help if this happens to you. You can also get more information in Sex and Women With Cancer.
For men: Radiation may affect the nerves that allow a man to have erections. If erection problems do occur, they are usually gradual, over the course of many months or years. Talk with your doctor about treatment options if this is a concern for you. You can get more information in Sex and Men With Cancer.
If you get internal radiation therapy with seed implants, check with your cancer care team about safety precautions during sex
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When Should You Get Tested For Gerd Or Stomach Cancer
You should make an appointment with your doctor if you have any concerning symptoms of GERD or stomach cancer including: frequent vomiting throat pain, loss of appetite, or stomach pain that lasts more than a week or unintentional weight loss.
Also important to know: One symptom of GERD is chest pain, which, according to the Mayo Clinic, can also be a symptom of a heart attack. You should seek immediate medical attention if you have chest pain especially if you also have a shortness of breath and jaw or arm pain.
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Gerd: When Acid Reflux Becomes Chronic
If you experience acid reflux at least twice a week over several weeks, doctors may start to consider your acid reflux as a chronic issue. When acid reflux becomes chronic, your doctor may reclassify the acid reflux as a condition called GERD or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. GERD includes regular heartburn plus:
- Chest pain
- Regurgitation of food or liquids
- The feeling of a lump in your throat
If you have any of these symptoms, it may be a sign of GERD, but it is important to discuss them with your doctor.
Living With Stomach Cancer
Medical treatment may remove or destroy your cancer. Even though you will feel relieved, you may worry, too. You may be afraid that the cancer will return. Its completely normal to feel this way. It may be comforting to know that your doctor will still want to monitor your closely. You may need to see your doctor every 3 to 6 months for a few years.
If part of your cancer treatment involved removing all or part of your stomach, your doctor will refer you to a nutritionist. The nutritionist will help you plan meals so you get the vitamins and minerals that your body needs. You may also need to take vitamin supplements.
Following treatment, your cancer may not completely go away. It can turn into a chronic condition. This can be stressful for you and your loved ones. You may need chemotherapy or other treatments to help control the cancer. These treatments can keep the cancer small and keep it from growing. When its not growing, you can take a break from treatment until it begins growing again.
If you have chronic cancer, it is important to find support for you and your family. Talk to a counselor, a minister or rabbi, or a support group. Know that you arent facing cancer alone.
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Are There Any Tests For Heartburn
If it is obvious from the symptoms that a person has heartburn, no tests or exams may be necessary. Advice in regard to lifestyle modifications, diet, or medications may begin immediately.
If your health care professional is not sure about the diagnosis, or if he or she is concerned about damage done by chronic heartburn, tests may be ordered. This is true especially if the patient has already been prescribed medications that are not relieving the heartburn.
There is no simple blood test for heartburn. The tests used to diagnose heartburn include the following:
Feeling And Being Sick
Stomach cancer can cause a blockage in the stomach. This stops food from passing through your digestive symptom which can make you feel or be sick.
Rarely, there is blood in the vomit. You may not be able to see any blood if it is small amounts. The blood might be bright red, which means it is fresh bleeding. Or it may look dark brown, like used coffee grounds, if the blood has been in the stomach for a while.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatic cancer often doesnt cause symptoms in the early stages. As the cancer grows, it may start to cause symptoms. The symptoms may not be specific to pancreatic cancer, and they may come and go to begin with. This can make pancreatic cancer hard to diagnose.
These symptoms can be caused by lots of things, and are unlikely to be pancreatic cancer. If you are not feeling well and you have any of the symptoms on this page, speak to your GP to check if there is anything wrong.
Common symptoms include:
Problems Digesting Food Such As Feeling Full Quickly When You Eat Bloating Burping Or Wind
The pancreas plays an important role in breaking down food . It is common for pancreatic cancer to cause problems with eating and digesting food.
Symptoms of this include feeling full up quickly when you eat, bloating of your tummy, lots of wind, and burping. But these symptoms are common problems and arent usually due to pancreatic cancer.
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Is Excessive Belching A Sign Of Cancer
Belching by itself is not a clear sign of cancer, but it can be a symptom of precursors to cancers in the digestive system.
For example, infection with H. pylori causes chronic inflammation and significantly increases the risk of developing gastric ulcer disease and gastric cancer. Infection with H. pylori is the strongest known risk factor for gastric cancer.
Approximately 10% of people with H. pylori develop peptic ulcer disease and 1%3% develop gastric adenocarcinoma.
H. pylori is curable. Treatment usually includes several medications, such as antibiotics to kill the bacteria and drugs that make the stomach produce less acid.
Constant Heartburn Could Be A Sign Of Stomach Esophageal Cancer
Are you clear about the effects of untreated heartburn? A new campaign from Public Health England wants to make sure, as new studies support the idea it could be symptomatic of stomach and esophageal cancer.
These two types of cancer are the fifth most common in England BBC News reported around 12,900 people are diagnosed with the disease each year. So PHE launched Be Clear On Cancer, a campaign that focuses on how to spot the respective symptoms one of which is persistent heartburn. People in both the UK and U.S. experience heartburn after a large meal. But three weeks of persistent heartburn or difficult swallowing are cause for concern. Additional signs include indigestion, losing weight, frequent burping, feeling full quickly after eating, nausea, vomiting, otherwise stomach pain, and discomfort.
Michael Griffin, a professor of surgery at the Northern oesophago-gastric unit, told the BBC people are reluctant to bring these symptoms to their doctor for fear of wasting their doctors time. But he wants to assure the public this will not be the case. Patients will either get reassurance it isnt cancer, or if it is, you will have a better chance of successful treatment.
Heartburn isnt fun no matter which way you look at it. Brush up on the natural ways to keep burn at bay and keep an eye on constant or chronic symptoms.
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Breast Cancer Types And Symptoms
There are several kinds of breast cancer. Many of them share symptoms.
Symptoms of ductal carcinoma
This is the most common type of breast cancer. It begins in your ducts. About 1 in 5 new breast cancers are ductal carcinoma in situ . This means you have cancer in the cells that line your ducts, but it hasnât spread into nearby tissue.
You may not notice any symptoms of ductal carcinoma. It can also cause a breast lump or bloody discharge.
Symptoms of lobular carcinoma
This kind begins in the glands that make milk, called lobules. Itâs the second most common type of breast cancer. Symptoms include:
- Fullness, thickening, or swelling in one area
- Nipples that are flat or point inward
Symptoms of invasive breast cancer
Breast cancer thatâs spread from where it began into the tissues around it is called invasive or infiltrating. You may notice:
- A lump in your breast or armpit. You might not be able to move it separately from your skin or move it at all.
- One breast that looks different from the other
- A rash or skin thatâs thick, red, or dimpled like an orange
- Skin sores
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Muscle weakness
Symptoms of triple-negative breast cancer
Breast cancer is called triple-negative if it doesnât have receptors for the hormones estrogen and progesterone and doesnât make a lot of a protein called HER2. This kind tends to grow and spread faster than other types, and doctors treat it differently.
Symptoms of male breast cancer
- A small, hard cyst
Weakness And Constant Fatigue
If you feel weak and fatigued despite no physical activity, this may be one of the early pancreatic cancer symptoms.
In this condition, fatigue can be caused by the growth of the tumor size day by day, lacking sleep because of pain and other reasons as well as anemia because of losing appetite.
Besides, not eating properly also affects to the level of energy and then you can feel that you have to relax and sleep.
So, remember if you feel fatigued and weak even after you get more time to rest and sleep, you should see the doctor immediately to get diagnosed with your condition.
It may be a symptom of various cancers or other health conditions. Early diagnosis will increase the rate of cure.
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