“The Dangerous Link Between Chronic Reflux and Esophageal Cancer.”
Each year, the week of Thanksgiving is also dedicated to bringing awareness to a growing disease which affects roughly 20% of Americans. That disease is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).
Also known as acid reflux disease, GERD is a condition of the digestive system, which has increased significantly in recent decades. GERD is also a primary risk factor for esophageal cancer, one of the fastest growing and deadliest cancers in the United States. Esophageal cancer, like GERD, has also increased significantly in past decades. In fact, incidence of esophageal cancer has risen over 733% in the past four decades and has only an overall five-year survival rate of approximately 19.9%.
The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation, a nonprofit, which has funded two grants for esophageal cancer research (one in July, 2015 and another in November, 2018) is working once again to bring awareness of the dangerous link between GERD and esophageal cancer. While GERD has many symptoms, the most common symptom is heartburn.
Heartburn does not typically cause major concern, as billions of Americans experience it at some point in their lives. However, persistent heartburn, which occurs two or more times a week, should not be taken lightly, as it could be a symptom of the disease.
President of The Salgi Foundation, Linda Molfesi, said, “my father suffered from chronic heartburn for years and was never warned by doctors of the possible risks. We found out too late, once he started having difficulty swallowing, that his chronic reflux had led to esophageal cancer.” Molfesi continued, “My father passed away a little over a year after he was diagnosed and it was, and still is, devastating.”
COVID-19 Impact on Cancer Research published in JAMA Network Open in August, 2020, found that in the past year, the weekly diagnosis for six cancers, of which esophageal cancer is included, fell by almost 50% in the U.S. This is due to the fact that people have delayed important cancer screenings due to COVID-19. This is especially concerning for esophageal cancer, which, when caught in advanced stages, is very difficult to treat and has a poor survival rate.
As it stands, esophageal cancer has few, if any, early symptoms. Symptoms such as difficulty swallowing, chronic cough or hoarseness, food getting stuck or choking while eating often occur once the cancer has spread and reaches an advanced stage. There are currently no routine or standard screenings to detect esophageal cancer in its earlier stages. The foundation is hoping to help change that, awarding $62,597 in November, 2018, to researchers at Virginia Mason Medical Center who are currently developing a breath test for detecting esophageal cancer earlier.
Molfesi encourages those who suffer from chronic reflux to be proactive about their health, stating “never ignore frequent heartburn or other symptoms and never rely on medications alone. Talk to your primary care doctor about all of your options, especially how you can get screened for any possible damage.”
The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation: is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose mission is to raise awareness, encourage early detection and to fund research of esophageal cancer in hopes of a cure.™ The charity has hosted events in Rhode Island, Missouri, Colorado, Ohio, Kentucky, New York City, Massachusetts, Virginia, Maine, New Jersey and Illinois, with additional locations currently in the planning stages. These events gave rise to chapters in St. Louis, Missouri; Arvada, Colorado and Brooklyn, New York. For more information, please visit: www.salgi.org
Learn the Facts About Esophageal Cancer:
- No standard or routine screening to detect cancer in earlier stages
- One of the fastest growing and deadliest cancers in the US and western world
- Symptoms often arise once the cancer has spread
- Research receives low government and/or private funding
- In 2020, estimated 18,440 diagnoses and 16,170 deaths from the cancer.
- Overall five-year survival rate of less than 19.9%.
- Stage IV has a survival rate of only 4.8%.
Esophageal Cancer Risk Factors:
- Acid reflux disease-GERD (chronic heartburn)
- Poor nutrition
- Heavy drinking
- Tobacco use
- Barrett’s esophagus
Common Symptoms of Esophageal Cancer:
- Painful/difficulty swallowing
- Food getting stuck
- Weight loss
- Hoarseness or cough
- Pain behind breastbone or pain in back
For more information, please visit: SALGI.org/GERD
SOURCES: Harvey W. Kaufman, MD. “Number of US Patients With Newly Identified Cancers Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” JAMA Network Open, JAMA Network, 4 Aug. 2020, jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2768946.