Esophageal Cancer has such a poor survival rate largely because it is usually discovered at late stages. That's why ECAN, the Esophageal Cancer Action Network - a national non-profit organization - is relentless in its quest to make sure those with persistent heartburn become aware of the risk of developing esophageal cancer.
April has been formally designated as Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month throughout the United States and ECAN urges Americans with heartburn or GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) to follow these tips for treatment of their condition.
1. Work on losing weight. Being overweight worsens symptoms of GERD, which is a major risk factor for Esophageal Cancer. Speak with your health care provider about a plan to reduce your weight and increase your health.
2. Don't lie down after eating. For those with reflux disease, the valve between the esophagus and the stomach doesn't function properly, allowing the contents of the stomach to back up into the esophagus. Lying down can make this problem worse, leading to late-night heartburn. Be sure to eat early to give your stomach time to empty before bedtime.
3. Sleep with your head elevated. Lying down can exacerbate reflux disease. If you have reflux, consider taking action to make sure that your head and upper chest are elevated while you sleep. Stomach acid, like water, does not roll uphill. You can raise one end of your bed so that your head is elevated as compared with your feet or you can use new products designed to elevate your head to comfortable levels.
4. Take an antacid or other medication. Over the counter and prescription remedies can effectively treat GERD symptoms. But don't simply alleviate symptoms. Take steps to address the risk of developing more serious conditions by speaking with your health care provider.
5. Pay attention if symptoms stop. If you had persistent heartburn symptoms that have stopped on their own, see your doctor. It could be a sign of changes in your esophagus that could lead to Esophageal Cancer.
6. Talk to your health care provider. If you have a history of heartburn or acid indigestion, talk to your doctor about Barrett's esophagus, which increases your risk of developing cancer. Even if your reflux symptoms are controlled, you still could be at risk. The only way to diagnose Barrett's is with an endoscopy and biopsy.
7. Don't ignore your heartburn, it could be dangerous.
ECAN's mission is to save lives by increasing awareness about the link between heartburn and cancer, promoting early detection and supporting medical innovation to prevent, detect and treat esophageal cancer. The Baltimore-based national non-profit organization is led by a board of directors of top physicians, business leaders and families that have been touched by esophageal cancer. Attorney and former journalist Mindy Mintz Mordecai founded the national non-profit organization after losing her husband and the father of their two young daughters to the disease in 2008.
Through ECAN's efforts, April has been formally designated as Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month in most U.S. states. ECAN also published the Guide for Patients and successfully advocated with the National Cancer Institute to include esophageal cancer in its groundbreaking genome mapping project known as The Cancer Genome Atlas. For more information, visit www.ecan.org.
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