Over the past couple of years, there's been a huge rise in rates of oesophageal cancer, which is cancer that rises from the oesophagus - the muscular food pipe that runs between the throat and stomach.
According to researchers, this surge may be largely due to a lack of awareness about the causes of oesophageal cancer and how to prevent it. However, they've have identified treating heartburn and acid reflux as key ways of preventing oesophageal cancer.
If you suffer from heartburn and acid reflux, also referred to as gastro oesophageal reflux disease (or GERD for short), best you get it under control to reduce your risk of oesophageal cancer!
There were six times as many cases of oesophageal cancer in 2001 as there were in 1975
This goes according to researchers at the University of California in Los Angeles in the USA. These researchers noted that one key way in which people can reduce their risk of oesophageal cancer
is to manage heartburn and acid reflux, often called gastro oesophageal reflux disease or GERD.
Dr V Raman Muthusamy, associate clinical professor of medicine and endoscopy director at the UCLA Center for Esophageal Disorders, reported, “Obesity
and poor diet have spiked the numbers suffering from acid reflux.”
But just how can GERD cause oesophageal cancer? When you leave GERD untreated, it can cause stomach acid to repeatedly wash into your oesophagus. Ultimately, this causes changes in your tissue lining, resulting in a condition known as Barrett’s oesophagus.
According to the researchers at the University of California, people who’re diagnosed with Barrett’s oesophagus are a whopping 40 times more likely to develop oesophageal cancer!
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Heartburn is often the only symptom of oesophageal cancer
According to Muthusamy and his colleague, Dr Kevin Ghassemi, a clinical programmes director at the university’s Center for Esophageal Disorders, heartburn is often the only symptom of oesophageal cancer. Of course, this makes matters complicated...
“Early identification, treatment and management of changes in the oesophageal lining are critical to catching problems early,” says Ghassemi.
So how do you tell if you should be concerned about your heartburn or acid reflux?
Tips to know when your heartburn or acid reflux is serious
These tips, put together by Muthusamy and Ghassemi, can help you reduce your risk of health problems associated with heartburn and acid reflux, such as oesophageal cancer:
Visit your doctor if you experience heartburn or acid reflux more than once a week. You may need help managing the condition.
Avoid overeating and make sure you sit upright after eating. Reclining while your tummy is full can trigger heartburn or worsen your symptoms.
Shed those extra kilos! Carrying extra weight can make heartburn acid reflux worse.
Do light exercise after dinner. Engaging in light physical activity aids in digestion.
If you’re taking acid reflux medication like Prilosec, Prevacid, Nexium, Pepcid or Zantac, make sure you take it regularly. This will help bring down the level of acid in your stomach.
If you smoke, stop immediately!
Eliminate alcohol, caffeine and fatty foods from your diet – they all increase your risk of acid reflux.
Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing.
If you’re on heart and blood pressure medication like nitrates and calcium channel blockers, discuss other treatment options with your doctor. These drugs may be putting you at greater risk of acid reflux.
If you’re a white man aged 50 or older and have been experiencing heartburn or acid reflux for 10 years or longer, get screened for Barrett’s oesophagus. You’ll still be able to treat the changes in your oesophagus lining and avoid oesophageal cancer if you catch Barrett’s oesophagus early!
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