Heartburn is a common condition affecting the majority of population. As this condition is mostly uncomfortable, rather than painful, most people just take an antacid and the problem is solved.
However, indigestion can be a sign of something more serious – stomach and esophageal cancer.
And these two cancer types, just like any other cancer, are treatable only if detected early.
Don’t just take an antacid to deal with it
Britain has started raising awareness of heartburn as a possible sign of cancer by launching a campaign through the Public Health England (PHE). According to PHE, stomach and esophageal cancer are the fifth most common cancers in the U.K., with almost 13,000 people diagnosed every year. During the same period, approximately 10,000 people die from these cancers.
It’s a similar situation in America as well. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), there are over 16,000 new stomach and esophageal cancer cases each year, and men are 3-4 times more affected than women. The same as with Britain, stomach and esophageal cancer cases in America have a low survival rate of only 10%.
Poor digestion linked to stomach and esophageal cancer
The symptoms of stomach and esophageal cancer comprise poor digestion for three weeks or longer; the feeling of food sticking in your throat whenever you swallow; the loss of body weight for no apparent reason; trapped wind and frequent burping; nausea and vomiting, as well as stomach pain or some discomfort, report both PHE and the ACS.
Moreover, GERD or gastro esophageal reflux disease, commonly referred to as heartburn, is now considered a major warning sign. According to a recent ACS Gallup poll, 44% of American adults experience heartburn and poor digestion once every month, and approximately 30% of stomach and esophageal cancer cases can be related to it. The most common symptoms of this condition include a burning pain in the lower part of the mid-chest, behind the breastbone and in the mid-abdomen.
Protect yourself by making some lifestyle changes
According to the ACS, simple lifestyle changes can prevent or control GERD. First, you need to increase your physical activity. Second, be careful of what, when and how much you eat.
Including more fruits and vegetables in your diet, having smaller but more frequent meals throughout the day, not eating 2-3 hours before going to bed, and eating less spicy or acidic foods are the main guidelines for protecting yourself against GERD, and eventually stomach or esophageal cancer.
Smoking and alcohol are also an issue, so cutting down or quitting these habits altogether is a great health investment. Alternatively, you can opt for an antacid or an over-the-counter proton pump inhibitor, designed to lessen stomach acid.
The earlier you take action, the better
If these tips don’t help, and you still suffer from heartburn and indigestion, consult your family doctor for more aggressive forms of treatment and prevention such as medications or other nonsurgical medical procedures, as well as laparoscopic and open surgeries, and endoscopic therapies. Men over 50 are especially advised to have routine endoscopies, as well as those who suffer from something more than heartburn and indigestion, weight loss, difficulties with swallowing, vomiting or anemia.
It’s important to understand that the earlier stomach and esophageal cancer are detected, the chances of successful treatment are higher. People having these early signs of cancer should consult their family doctor straightaway in order to get referrals for further testing and medical evaluation.
Have in mind that repeated heartburn asks for an immediate visit to your doctor!