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Everyone has heartburn once in a while, but if you have it daily and it’s accompanied by other symptoms, it could be a sign of something more serious.
Frequent heartburn is often caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). In people with GERD, the contents of the stomach back up into the esophagus. Depending on its severity, GERD is treated with medication or sometimes surgery.
When other symptoms accompany daily heartburn, though, that’s a sign it could be more than GERD. Symptoms to look for include trouble swallowing, regurgitation, chronic cough, hoarseness or chest pain. Waking up at night coughing or choking is another cause for possible concern.
“People with those symptoms seem to be at particularly high risk for developing complications or problems,” says Stephen Hamn, MD, general surgeon on the medical staff at Baylor Medical Center at Frisco. “Chronic reflux can cause a cancer of the esophagus that is very difficult to treat and has a high mortality rate.”
Fortunately, it’s a preventable form of cancer when recognized early. Because obesity is a factor in GERD, losing weight is an important preventive measure. Lifestyle changes can make a difference, too, such as avoiding carbonated beverages, alcohol and fatty foods such as chocolate.
Controlling GERD with medication or surgery can also help prevent the development of cancers associated with reflux, Dr. Hamn says. “With current treatment options like the incisionless TIF procedure, many patients can enjoy minimal recovery time and never again have to take a pill to control their reflux symptoms.”
Because early detection is so important, it’s smart to see a specialist if you’re experiencing significant symptoms. Fairly simple tests can identify exactly what’s going on.
“Sometimes the problem is something other than reflux,” Dr. Hamn says, “but once we diagnose it then we can treat it.”
Do You Have Chronic Heartburn or GERD?Call1.800.4BAYLOR or learn more online about GERD and the treatment options available at Baylor Frisco.
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