This April as part of Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month, the Minnesota Reflux & Heartburn Center is reminding people to learn the facts about esophageal cancer and become familiar with its symptoms and risk factors.
Esophageal cancer is one of the fastest-growing cancer diagnoses in the United States, according to the Esophageal Cancer Action Network. Esophageal adenocarcinoma is typically found in the lower region of the esophagus, and has been linked to acid reflux. Over the last 35 years, doctors have seen a 600 percent increase in esophageal adenocarcinoma, a type of cancer that is particularly deadly.
Esophageal cancer is more common among men than among women. The lifetime risk of esophageal cancer in the United States is about one in 132 men and about one in 455 women. The American Cancer Society estimates that 17,650 Americans will be diagnosed with cancer this year and there will be 16,080 deaths from esophageal cancer in 2019. Fewer than one in five patients survive five years after being diagnosed.
“Esophageal cancer is not entirely preventable but knowing the risk factors and recognizing the symptoms can help us detect and treat Barrett’s esophagus, the known precursor to cancer,” said Dr. Paul Severson, Reflux Specialist and Medical Director of the Minnesota Reflux & Heartburn Center. Risk factors for esophageal cancer include: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), hiatal hernia, obesity and smoking. Common symptoms include heartburn, regurgitation, difficulty swallowing, chronic cough, throat clearing and hoarseness. Dr. Severson emphasized that these symptoms should be investigated long before signs of cancer begin, such as loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue and blood in the stool.
People with risk factors who experience chronic symptoms of GERD that fail to respond to medical therapy should schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider. The Minnesota Reflux & Heartburn Center provides comprehensive testing and a full menu of endoscopic and minimally invasive therapies for patients with GERD, heartburn, and esophageal symptoms. 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. Center specialists are available for appointments at Cuyuna Regional Medical Center’s Crosby, Baxter and Breezy Point locations and at Riverwood Healthcare Center in Aitkin.
Patients may be referred by their primary care physician or seek more information by calling 218-545-2876 or 844-200-BURN (2876). For more information, visit mnheartburn.org.