GERD and Esophageal Cancer

GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a condition that causes people to suffer from heartburn or acid reflux two or more times a week. In addition to chronic pain, GERD can also lead to serious health complications, including esophageal cancer.

GERD is generally caused by malfunction of the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES. The LES is the valve between the esophagus and the stomach that is supposed to prevent stomach acid from flowing back up into the esophagus. If this valve isn’t working properly, frequent reflux and heartburn can occur.

When you experience reflux or heartburn, your esophagus is being exposed to damaging stomach acids. Over time, frequent exposure can damage the lining of the esophagus and create a condition known as Barrett’s Esophagus. In Barrett’s Esophagus, the cells in the esophagus change to more closely resemble cells in the lining of the intestines. In some cases, Barrett’s Esophagus can develop into esophageal cancer.

While most people who suffer from GERD do not develop Barrett’s Esophagus (and even those who do are at a relatively low risk for developing cancer), it’s important to know that untreated GERD can cause permanent, potentially fatal health complications. If you suffer from heartburn or acid reflux symptoms two or more times a week, talk to your doctor about possible treatment options.

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