My family has a history of stomach problems. Â My Dad had bleeding ulcers on several occasions so, when I started to haveÂ heartburn on a regular basis,Â I thought it was just part of my heritage. I didn’tÂ know that heartburn can cause esophageal cancerÂ but, in my case, that’sÂ exactly what happened.
Heartburn for over 25 years
For years I had recurring bouts of heartburn. Â I would take an over-the-counter antacid, and the problem would go away. Â Since the heartburn didn’t immediately return, I thought the antacid had handled the problem.
When I started to have heartburn more frequently (2 or 3 times a week), Â I attributed it to stress at work and eating late at night. I continued to take an over-the-counter remedyÂ and, as before,Â the problem would go away.
ThisÂ patternÂ continued for 25 years and never once during that time did I hear that heartburn can cause esophageal cancer.Â Even though I readÂ the newspaper regularlyÂ andÂ saw many advertisements on television, I never learnedÂ that heartburn can cause esophageal cancer.
Diagnosis of Esophageal Cancer
When IÂ experienced food getting stuck in my esophagus, I knew something was wrong. I went toÂ my doctorÂ whoÂ immediately sent me forÂ an endoscopic exam. The results were devastating — I had stage III esophageal cancer. The tumor was at the base of my esophagus where my stomach and esophagus meet.
MyÂ odds of survivingÂ esophageal cancer where truly frightening. When I was diagnosed in 1999, the odds were between 5 – 10% for a stage III patient. Today, evenÂ after aÂ prescribed course of Â chemotherapy, radiation therapy and major surgery, the average 5-year survival rate Â for all patients regardless of their course of treatment Â isÂ onlyÂ 17.5%
Heartburn can cause esophageal cancer
When I told the doctors about my long historyÂ of heartburn, Â they all agreedÂ it was the cause of my esophageal cancer. WhyÂ had I never heard that before? It isÂ frustrating that such a deadly disease goes unmentioned.
Esophageal cancer is truly a stealthyÂ killer. ItÂ can progressÂ from heartburn, to Acid Reflux, to Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), to Barrett’s Esophagus, to Esophageal Cancer. There were 17,000 new cases of esophageal cancer in the United States lastÂ year and about 15,000 deaths due to the disease in theÂ same period.
ECEF was founded to fight this disease
My wife, Ginny, and I, decided to fight this disease by helping to makeÂ people more aware of it. We created the Esophageal Cancer Education Foundation (ECEF) with theÂ first goal to bring awareness and educate the public about esophageal cancer.
The video below is an important partÂ of our efforts to education the public about this insidious disease. Please take a moment to learn more about esophageal cancerÂ and Â be sure to share this video with everyone you know.
If you only take away one thing from this video, please remember:Â heartburn can cause esophageal cancer.
Patient, Survivor and Co-Founder
Esophageal Cancer Education Foundation