Throwback Thursday: Esophageal Cancer Research Funding Awarded in 2015

July 21, 2016

The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation awarded its first grant for esophageal cancer research in July 2015.  The charity awarded program director, Dr. Carlos Minacapelli and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnston Medical School grant funding.

In 2011, The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation was established to raise awareness, encourage early detection and to fund research of esophageal cancer. Since 2011, the foundation has both raised awareness and encouraged the importance of earliest possible detection throughout New England, across the United States and internationally.

“The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation is excited to be a part of Dr. Minacapelli’s and Rutger’s research efforts in honor of all the brave men and women who were affected by esophageal cancer and to hopefully reduce incidence and improve outcomes for individuals in the future” President of the foundation stated.

Update:  As of July 2016, The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation has received 20 requests from researchers seeking funding for esophageal cancer research. 

To make a tax-deductible donation to The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation, please visit: SALGI.org/donate.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, also known as GERD or acid reflux disease, of which the most common symptom is chronic heartburn, is one of the primary risk factors associated with esophageal cancer. Other risk factors include obesity, poor nutrition and smoking. With over a 600% increase in the past decades, esophageal cancer is among the fastest growing and deadliest cancers in the United States and western world.

Currently, there are no standard or routine screenings to detect esophageal cancer in earlier stages. Symptoms, such as difficulty swallowing, typically appear once the cancer has become advanced and the overall five-year survival rate is only 17.5%. Despite its rapid increase and poor prognosis, esophageal cancer receives very little awareness and research funding.

The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation would like to thank all of our supporters and donors who believe in this mission and who make these accomplishments possible. However, this is just the beginning. The charity received many other research requests that we were unable to fund in 2015. We need to continue our efforts to fundraise so that we may continue to fund research.


GERD Awareness Week: November 22-28, 2015

November 19, 2015

“Chronic heartburn may be more than just a pain in the esophagus.”

Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends to gather together, share thanks and enjoy a delicious feast.  The week of Thanksgiving is also dedicated to bringing awareness to a growing disease which affects one out of five 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, similar to GERD, has also increased significantly in past decades. In fact, incidence of esophageal cancer has risen over 600% and with an overall five-year survival rate of only 17.5%.

The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation, a nonprofit which awarded its very first grant to esophageal cancer research earlier this year, is working to once again bring awareness of the dangerous link between GERD and esophageal cancer.

Heartburn, a common symptom of GERD, 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 knows all too well the dangers of heartburn and acid reflux. “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.” She continued, “My father passed away a little over a year after he was diagnosed and it was, and still is, devastating.”

Many chronic heartburn sufferers turn to antacids or other medications for relief. Some medications, known as Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs), work to reduce the amount of acid in the stomach. These medications treat the symptoms of GERD but not the disease.

A poll conducted by RefluxMD, a San Diego, CA, based Internet healthcare company, focused on helping people suffering from reflux, showed that the majority of patients who were prescribed PPIs by their doctors were never told the medications “only treated symptoms, but that reflux would continue and the disease could progress” and were also never told “there were potential negative side effects (e.g. osteoporosis, bacterial infections, etc.”).

According to RefluxMD, PPIs are overprescribed and although long-term use of PPIs daily may reduce or eliminate symptoms, they do not stop the flow of stomach contents into the esophagus. Consequently, GERD can progress and potentially lead to Barrett’s esophagus or esophageal cancer.”

Unfortunately, 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.

To make matters even worse, there are currently no routine or standard screenings to detect esophageal cancer in its earliest stages.   The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation encourages those who suffer from reflux to be proactive about their health, stating “never ignore frequent heartburn and never rely on medications alone. Talk to your doctor about all of your options, especially how you can get screened for any possible damage.”

Please join us in raising awareness of the dangerous link between Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) and esophageal cancer!

Share this post and please feel free to share the images below on social media!  The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ and YouTube.

The more awareness we raise about risk factors and symptoms of esophageal cancer and the importance of early detection, the more lives that can potentially be saved!

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Content found on Salgi.org is for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

 

Copyright 2015 Salgi.org


Foundation Reaches Milestone: Issues Esophageal Cancer Research Funding For the First Time.

July 28, 2015

The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation has issued its first round of funding for esophageal cancer research earlier this month.

The foundation awarded program director, Dr. Carlos Minacapelli and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnston Medical School grant funding.

In 2011, The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation was established to raise awareness, encourage early detection and to fund research of esophageal cancer.  Since 2011, the foundation has both raised awareness and encouraged the importance of earliest possible detection throughout New England, across the United States and internationally.

“The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation is excited to be a part of Dr. Minacapelli’s and Rutger’s research efforts in honor of all the brave men and women who were affected by esophageal cancer and to hopefully reduce incidence and improve outcomes for individuals in the future” President of the foundation stated.

The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation would like to thank all of our supporters and donors who believe in this mission and who make these accomplishments possible.  However, this is just the beginning.  We received many other research requests that we were unable to fund at this time.  We need to continue our efforts to fundraise so that we may continue to fund research.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, also known as GERD or acid reflux disease, of which the most common symptom is chronic heartburn, is one of the primary risk factors associated with esophageal cancer.  Other risk factors include obesity, poor nutrition and smoking.  With over a 600% increase in the past decades, esophageal cancer is among the fastest growing and deadliest cancers in the United States and western world.

Currently, there are no standard or routine screenings to detect esophageal cancer in earlier stages. Symptoms, such as difficulty swallowing, typically appear once the cancer has become advanced and the overall five-year survival rate is only 17.5%.  Despite its rapid increase and poor prognosis, esophageal cancer receives very little awareness and research funding.

To make a tax-deductible donation to The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation, please visit: SALGI.org/donate.

 


’Pill on a String’ Could Help Spot Early Signs of Esophageal Cancer

July 21, 2015

A ‘pill on a string’ developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge could help doctors detect esophageal cancer at an early stage, helping them overcome the problem of wide variation between biopsies, suggests research published today in the journal Nature Genetics.

The ‘Cytosponge’ sits within a pill which, when swallowed, dissolves to reveal a sponge that scrapes off cells when withdrawn up the esophagus. It allows doctors to collect cells from all along the esophagus, whereas standard biopsies take individual point samples.

Cytosponge Credit: University of Cambridge

Cytosponge- Credit: University of Cambridge

Esophageal cancer is often preceded by Barrett’s esophagus, a condition in which cells within the lining of the esophagus begin to change shape and can grow abnormally. The cellular changes are cause by acid and bile reflux – when the stomach juices come back up the esophagus. Between one and five people in every 100 with Barrett’s esophagus go on to develop esophageal cancer in their life-time, a form of cancer that can be difficult to treat, particularly if not caught early enough.

At present, Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer are diagnosed using biopsies, which look for signs of dysplasia, the proliferation of abnormal cancer cells. This is a subjective process, requiring a trained scientist to identify abnormalities.  Understanding how esophageal cancer develops and the genetic mutations involved could help doctors catch the disease earlier, offering better treatment options for the patient.

An alternative way of spotting very early signs of esophageal cancer would be to look for important genetic changes. However, researchers from the University of Cambridge have shown that variations in mutations across the esophagus mean that standard biopsies may miss cells with important mutations. A sample was more likely to pick up key mutations if taken using the Cytosponge, developed by Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald at the Medical Research Council Cancer Unit at the University of Cambridge.

“The trouble with Barrett’s esophagus is that it looks bland and might span over 10cm,” explains Professor Fitzgerald. “We created a map of mutations in a patient with the condition and found that within this stretch, there is a great deal of variation amongst cells. Some might carry an important mutation, but many will not. If you’re taking a biopsy, this relies on your hitting the right spot. Using the Cytosponge appears to remove some of this game of chance.”

Professor Fitzgerald and colleagues carried out whole genome sequencing to analyse paired Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer samples taken at one point in time from 23 patients, as well as 73 samples taken over a three-year period from one patient with Barrett’s esophagus.

The researchers found patterns of mutations in the genome – where one ‘letter’ of DNA might change to another, for example from a C to a T – that provided a ‘fingerprint’ of the causes of the cancer. Similar work has been done previously in lung cancer, where it was shown that cigarettes leave fingerprints in an individual’s DNA. The Cambridge team found fingerprints which they believe are likely to be due to the damage caused to the lining of the esophagus by stomach acid splashing onto its walls; the same fingerprints could be seen in both Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer, suggest that these changes occur very early on the process.

Even in areas of Barrett’s esophagus without cancer, the researchers found a large number of mutations in their tissue – on average 12,000 per person (compared to an average of 18,000 mutations within the cancer). Many of these are likely to have been ‘bystanders’, genetic mutations that occurred along the way but that were not actually implicated in cancer.

The researchers found that there appeared to be a tipping point, where a patient would go from having lots of individual mutations, but no cancer, to a situation where large pieces of genetic information were being transferred not just between genes but between chromosomes.

Co-author Dr Caryn Ross-Innes adds: “We know very little about how you go from pre-cancer to cancer – and this is particularly the case in esophageal cancer. Barrett’s esophagus and the cancer share many mutations, but we are now a step closer to understanding which are the important mutations that tip the condition over into a potentially deadly form of cancer.”

Source: University of Cambridge

Reference: Ross-Innes, CS et al. Whole-genome sequencing provides new insights into the clonal architecture of Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal adenocarcinoma. Nature Genetics; 20 July 2015


Barrett’s Esophagus Appears To Be Spiking in Younger Patients

July 17, 2015

GASTROENTEROLOGY & ENDOSCOPY NEWS

The incidence of Barrett’s esophagus (BE) among relatively young people has surged in recent years, an analysis of a large health care database has found.

The study, of 50 million unique patient records between 2008 and 2013, showed that while the absolute incidence remains low among people younger than age 55 years, the share of cases in that group climbed sharply over the five-year period. Meanwhile, cases of BE among people over age 55 fell, suggesting a demographic shift in the disease with potentially important implications for screening, according to the researchers. As a precancerous condition, BE may be more dangerous in younger patients because of the longer time for the abnormal cells to progress to malignancy.

“The increase in the rate of BE was particularly high in the age group of 25 to 34 years,” said Sasan Sakiani, MD, of the Division of Gastroenterology at MetroHealth Medical Center, in Cleveland, and a study co-author.

Ronnie Fass, MD, director of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at MetroHealth, who helped conduct the study, said more research is needed to identify the underlying basis for the trend.

“The impetus behind the study was the growing number of younger patients with GERD [gastroesophageal reflux disease]-related symptoms who were diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus in our clinic,” Dr. Fass said. “It was important for us to further assess this trend because of the important impact it will likely have on our current guidelines for BE screening.”

Dr. Sakiani’s group presented the findings at Digestive Disease Week 2015 (abstract SA1881). The researchers analyzed the Explorys database, which includes data from 317,000 providers admitting patients to 360 hospitals in the United States. The database was initially surveyed by the International Classification of Diseases, 9th edition code for GERD, symptoms of heartburn and other risk factors for BE. The researchers conducted additional analyses to find patients who underwent endoscopy and received a diagnosis of BE between 2008 and 2013, to establish an annual incidence by patient age, sex and race.

“There was a steady increase in both the number of endoscopic procedures performed each year and the incidence of BE,” Dr. Sakiani said. By 2013, the number of endoscopies had risen to 201,140 from 79,040 in 2008, while the incidence of BE increased from 1,970 to 4,269 over that period.

Read the full article, here.

 

Bosworth, Ted. “Barrett’s Esophagus Appears To Be Spiking in Younger Patients.Gastroenterology & Endoscopy News – Web. 17 July 2015.


‘Jumping genes’ may drive esophageal cancer, Cancer Research UK

July 10, 2015

Cancer Research UK scientists have found that ‘jumping genes’ may add to the genetic chaos behind more than three-quarters of esophageal cancer cases, according to research published in BMC Genomics.

The scientists, from the University of Cambridge, used cutting-edge technology that can read DNA to study the genes of 43 esophageal tumour and blood samples to discover how much these mobile genetic sequences travel.

‘Jumping genes’, called L1 elements, can uproot themselves and move to new areas in the DNA, sometimes accidentally moving into genes that control the cell’s growth.

They found evidence that this happened around 100 times in each tumour sample, and in some tumours it happened 700 times.

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Image: Cancer Research UK

If a jumping gene lands in or near an important gene that controls cell growth, it can wreak havoc, changing how the gene works so that it inadvertently tells the cell to grow and divide out of control – which could lead to cancer.

Study author Dr Paul Edwards, at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, said: “These jumping genes play hopscotch across our genetic code in cancer cells more than in normal cells. When one of these mobile genetic sequences plants itself in the middle of a gene that controls the cell’s growth it radically alters how the cell behaves, which can sometimes cause cancer.

“Research has shown that this might also happen in lung and bowel cancers. So it’s vital we find out more about how the cells do this in a bid to find ways to treat these cancers.”

The research is part of the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC) – a global project using the latest gene sequencing technology to reveal the genetic changes behind cancer.  The esophageal cancer project is funded by Cancer Research UK.

Dr Kat Arney, Cancer Research UK’s science information manager, said: “Esophageal cancer is one of the hardest cancers to treat, and we are committed to funding more research to find out its underlying causes. These new findings reveal more about the genetic chaos that underpins esophageal tumours, and could one day help us develop better ways to diagnose, treat and monitor the disease.”

References: Paterson et al. Mobile element insertions are frequent in oesophageal adenocarcinomas and can mislead paired end sequencing analysis. BMC Genomics. DOI: 10.1186/s12864-015-1685-z.

This post is based on materials provided by Cancer Research UK.


American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE) Releases New Guidelines on Endoscopic Management of GERD

June 18, 2015

The American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE) has issued new Guidelines that cite Stretta as a viable treatment option for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).

According to the Guidelines, Stretta was seen as safe, effective and durable, specifically stating: “Adverse events were infrequent and typically minor. The technique appears to durably relieve GERD symptoms for up to 10 years in the majority of patients.” The document was prepared by the ASGE Standards of Practice Committee, approved by the ASGE Governing Board, and published in the June issue of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.

Stretta is a minimally-invasive endoscopic treatment that delivers non-ablative radiofrequency (RF) energy to improve and restore the function of the lower esophageal sphincter muscle, thereby improving symptoms of GERD.

“The recent ASGE guideline regarding the role of endoscopy in treating GERD highlights the safety, efficacy, and durability of Stretta,” said Robert D. Fanelli, MD, MHA, Chief of Minimally Invasive Surgery and Surgical Endoscopy for The Guthrie Clinic and a member of both the ASGE Standards of Practice Committee and the SAGES Guidelines Committee. “This guideline, in concert with the previously published SAGES Clinical Spotlight Review on endoluminal reflux therapy, demonstrates support for Stretta as a treatment option for appropriately selected patients with GERD, based on rigorous reviews of the literature.”

The ASGE guidelines also state, “This technique uses RF energy delivery to the distal esophagus and appears to reduce GERD by decreasing tissue compliance and reducing transient lower esophageal relaxations.” In summary, the guideline suggests that endoscopic antireflux therapy may be considered for select GERD patients.

GERD is the most frequent outpatient GI diagnosis in the U.S. Although most patients are treated with proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), approximately 30 percent have incomplete control of symptoms on PPIs.

GERD is also a risk factor for esophageal cancer which is considered one of the fastest and deadliest cancers in the United States and western world.

Will Rutan, CEO of Mederi Therapeutics, the maker of Stretta said, “With recent studies highlighting potential issues with long-term PPI use, the timing is right for Stretta. Doctors who offer Stretta are positioned to make a difference in the quality of life of their patient by broadening treatment options for those in their care.”

Stretta Therapy is non-surgical treatment option for GERD patients who do not respond well to medications and wish to avoid surgery. Stretta has been the subject of more than 37 studies, all showing a high level of safety and efficacy.

Stretta can be an ideal option for patients whose symptoms are inadequately controlled by drug therapy or choose to avoid surgery. Unlike surgery, Stretta doesn’t alter the anatomy, so it provides a versatile treatment option that doesn’t complicate any future surgery, and can also be utilized in patients who already have had previous anti-reflux or bariatric procedures, and experience recurring GERD.

For more information, please visit stretta-therapy.com.

This post is based on materials provided by Stretta Therapy.


Microendoscope may eliminate biopsies for patients undergoing screening for esophageal cancer, study.

June 4, 2015

Rice University device nearly doubled sensitivity of esophageal cancer screenings

In a clinical study of patients in the United States and China, researchers found that a low-cost, portable, battery-powered microendoscope developed by Rice University bioengineers could eventually eliminate the need for costly biopsies for many patients undergoing standard endoscopic screening for esophageal cancer.

The research is available online in the journal Gastroenterology and was co-authored by researchers from nearly a dozen institutions that include Rice, Baylor College of Medicine, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and the National Cancer Institute.

The clinical study, which involved 147 U.S. and Chinese patients undergoing examination for potentially malignant squamous cell tumors, explored whether Rice’s low-cost, high-resolution fiber-optic imaging system could reduce the need for unnecessary biopsies when used in combination with a conventional endoscope — the worldwide standard of care for esophageal cancer diagnoses.

The study involved patients from two U.S. and two Chinese hospitals: Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, the Cancer Institute and Hospital of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences in Beijing and First University Hospital in Jilin, China.

In the study, all 147 patients with suspect lesions were examined with both a traditional endoscope and Rice’s microendoscope. Biopsies were obtained based upon the results of the traditional endoscopic exam.

A pathology exam revealed that more than half of those receiving biopsies — 58 percent — did not have high-grade precancer or cancer. The researchers found that the microendoscopic exam could have spared unnecessary biopsies for about 90 percent of the patients with benign lesions.

In these images from Rice’s high-resolution microendoscope, the white spots are cell nuclei, which are irregularly shaped and enlarged in cancerous tumors (right) as compared with healthy tissue (left). Credit: Richards-Kortum Lab/Rice University

 

“For patients, biopsies are stressful and sometimes painful,” said lead researcher Rebecca Richards-Kortum, Rice’s Stanley C. Moore Professor of Bioengineering, professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of Rice 360°: Institute for Global Health Technologies. “In addition, in low-resource settings, pathology costs frequently exceed endoscopy costs. So the microendoscope could both improve patient outcomes and provide a significant cost-saving advantage if used in conjunction with a traditional endoscope.”

When examined under a microscope, cancerous and precancerous cells typically appear different from healthy cells. The study of cellular structures is known as histology, and a histological analysis is typically required for an accurate diagnosis of both the type and stage of a cancerous tumor.

To determine whether a biopsy is needed for a histological exam, health professionals often use endoscopes, small cameras mounted on flexible tubes that can be inserted into the body to visually examine an organ or tissue without surgery. Rice’s high-resolution microendoscope uses a 1-millimeter-wide fiber-optic cable that is attached to the standard endoscope. The cable transmits images to a high-powered fluorescence microscope, and the endoscopist uses a tablet computer to view the microscope’s output. The microendoscope provides images with similar resolution to traditional histology and allows endoscopists to see individual cells and cell nuclei in lesions suspected of being cancerous.

By providing real-time histological data to endoscopists, Rice’s microendoscope can help rule out malignancy in cases that would otherwise require a biopsy.

“While traditional endoscopy can rule out malignancy and eliminate the need for biopsies for some patients, in a significant number of cases the difference between malignant and benign lesions only becomes apparent through a histological analysis,” said study co-author Dr. Sharmila Anandasabapathy, professor of medicine and gastroenterology at Baylor College of Medicine and director of Baylor Global Initiatives and the Baylor Global Innovation Center.

Richards-Kortum’s lab specializes in the development of low-cost optical imaging and spectroscopy tools to detect cancer and infectious disease at the point of care. Her research group is particularly interested in developing technology for low-resource settings, and the microendoscope was developed as part of that effort. It is battery-operated, inexpensive to operate and requires very little training. Results from the clinical study verified that both experienced and novice endoscopists could use the microendoscope to make accurate assessments of the need for a biopsy.

Clinical studies of Rice’s microendoscope are either planned or underway for a dozen types of cancer including cervical, bladder, oral and colon cancers.

“More than half of cancer deaths today occur in the developing world, often in low-resource areas,” Anandasabapathy said. “The World Health Organization and other important international bodies have called for increased global focus on noncommunicable diseases like cancer, and Rice’s microendoscope is a great example of what the right kind of technology can do to change health care in low-resource countries.”

The research was supported by the National Cancer Institute. This post is based on materials provided by a Rice University press release, which can be accessed here: news.rice.edu

 


Vice President of The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation Receives Rising Star Award

June 2, 2015

The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation would like to congratulate our Vice President for receiving a Rising Star Award from NonProfit PRO’s 2015 Nonprofit Professionals of the Year.

This achievement was featured in NonProfit PRO’s  May 2015 issue which featured the 2015 Nonprofit Professionals of the Year Awards.  Below is an excerpt from the magazine.

“Due to our Vice President’s social media and Internet optimization efforts, we have been able to connect with people across the United States, Canada, Australia, Philippines, India, Egypt and the United Kingdom. As a newer nonprofit with very limited funds, she has utilized low to no-cost marketing avenues to bring our message to the masses. Through social media, Google Ad Grants, our website, email newsletters, blogs, print, mailings and so much more, we have been fortunate enough to not only survive these hard times in our first years, but thrive with the promise of better times.”

– President, The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation

 


What Role Does The Esophagus Play In The Digestive System?

May 29, 2015

Today, May 29, 2015, is World Digestive Health Day (#WDHD2015)

As advocates for improving esophageal health and preventing esophageal cancer, The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation understands the importance of awareness and education of the important role that the esophagus plays in the digestive system.

Esophageal cancer is considered the fastest growing cancer in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute and is also considered one of the deadliest cancers.   Esophageal cancer research is extremely underfunded and there are no routine or standard tests to diagnose esophageal cancer in earlier stages to improve early detection and survival rates.

world digestive day 2015 salgi esophageal cancer research foundation what role esophagus play digestive system

The esophagus is the first channel in the digestive tube and plays a simple yet significant part in the human digestive system.   The esophagus is a muscular tube through which food passes from the throat to the stomach.  This takes place when we swallow and food or liquids are pushed from the mouth, down and into the esophagus and empty into the stomach.  The lower esophageal sphincter is located at the base of the esophagus and is responsible for controlling the passage of food and liquid between the esophagus and stomach.

The LES is a ring-shaped muscle which relaxes to allow food and liquid into the stomach.  Once the food and liquid pass through the relaxed sphincter, it closes back up, thus keeping the food and liquid in the stomach.

Problems arise when the LES weakens and does not close properly.  When this happens, stomach contents escape the stomach and flow back up into the esophagus.  This backflow of stomach content is called reflux.  For those who experience reflux symptoms (heartburn included) more than twice a week may have Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).

Sometimes Heartburn Isn’t Just An Inconvenience™

Heartburn is the most common symptom of acid reflux disease.  Other GERD symptoms include, but are not limited to, burning sensation in chest, regurgitation, chest pain and difficulty swallowing.

Some symptoms of acid reflux disease could also be indicators of something more serious.  For instance, RefluxMD states on their website that “although mild difficulty swallowing is often a common symptom of GERD, more severe difficulty swallowing could be a symptom of [esophageal] cancer and should be promptly evaluated.

Many people rely on medications, both over-the-counter and from a prescription, to help control their acid reflux symptoms.   Unfortunately, these medications only work to treat the symptoms of the disease, but do not stop the disease from progressing (getting worse) and do not stop damage from occurring to the esophagus.

Dr. Jamie Koufman, a physician in New York who specializes in voice disorders and acid reflux, explains in a New York Times article that a Danish study “concluded that there were no cancer-protective effects from using the common anti-reflux medications, called proton pump inhibitors and that regular long-term use was actually associated with an increased risk of developing esophageal cancer.”

Over time, the back-flow of stomach contents and acids irritate the esophagus and can cause serious damage to the esophagus, including Barrett’s esophagus (a sometimes pre-esophageal cancer condition) and can increase the risk of developing esophageal cancer.  Even if you are taking medications and not experiencing any symptoms, damage could still be occurring to the esophagus.

It is important to discuss any medical conditions or concerns with your doctor.  While the information provided here is intended for educational purposes, always speak to your doctor about your health.

If you or someone you know has GERD, RefluxMD has put together an eBook that is a must-read!  To download a FREE copy of I Have GERD, Now What?” click here.

The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation asks that you join us in raising awareness of the importance of esophageal health today and everyday!

The following are some additional links to articles from our website and others for further reading on this important topic:

The Lower Esophageal Sphincter, An Important Muscle You Didn’t Know You Had 

“I Have GERD, Now What” Free eBook provided by, RefluxMD 

I have esophageal cancer after 12 years of taking antireflux medication, RefluxMD

How do I find a GERD expert?, RefluxMD 

The Dangers of Eating Late at Night, Dr. Jamie Koufman

How is Heartburn Linked To Esophageal Cancer?

Join The Salgi Esophageal Cancer Research Foundation in raising awareness of the important role that the esophagus plays in the digestive system and spreading the word about esophageal cancer online.

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