Esophageal cancer is a devastating, but potentially preventable, disease. The catch is that by the time that symptoms occur, the cancer has often progressed too far to allow cure.
So what is a person to do who would like to avoid this cancer? The best thing is to know the risk factors. Longterm heartburn is a strong risk factor. Smoking, male gender, and obesity also figure into your risk for this disease. If you have two or more of these risk factors, have a conversation with your primary care doctor. You may need a screening upper endoscopy – a simple test where we put a light tube with a camera down your esophagus (or “food tube”) to make sure that you don’t have a precancerous or cancerous changes in your esophagus.
So ask your doctor. A few minutes could literally save a life.
Dr. Shaheen is a paid consultant to Cook Medical regarding the research and development of medical devices.