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Reflux and the Occurrence of Cancer

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic digestive disorder that is most commonly characterized by heartburn and regurgitation.

GERD occurs when stomach acid, or occasionally bile, leak backwards from the stomach into the food pipe (esophagus), causing irritation of the lining in the esophagus.

Heartburn and reflux are common digestive conditions and non-life threatening, yet, when these symptoms occur frequently and interfere with daily life, they may indicate GERD.

If left untreated, GERD may lead to esophagitis—inflammation of the esophagus, esophageal stricture—narrowing of the esophagus, esophageal ulcer—an open sore in the esophagus, or precancerous changes to the esophagus, called Barrett’s esophagus, which can lead to esophageal cancer.

Barrett’s esophagus and cancer
About 20 percent of individuals living with GERD develop Barrett’s esophagus. Barrett’s esophagus is when the esophagus reacts to the repeated injury from the acidic fluid by changing the type of cells lining it from squamous (normal cells) to columnar (intestinal-type cells). This transformation is believed to be a protective response to make the esophagus more resistant to injury.

Treatment options
Over the counter medications can often treat mild cases of reflux, yet for more serious conditions of GERD, lifestyle changes, prescription drug therapy, adjunctive drug therapy, endoscopic procedures and sometimes minimally invasive surgery are needed to properly treat symptoms.

Hoag Digestive Disease Center​

For more information, call 949-764-5350.