‘I couldn’t swallow my saliva’: Signs your heartburn is turning cancerous – symptoms
Bowel cancer: Dr Philippa Kaye lists the symptoms
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Cancer remains one of the world’s deadliest diseases, with even the latest technological advances unable to curb rates. Mapping out the symptoms, however, has proven conducive to receiving a timely diagnosis. It has previously been pointed out that people with heartburn have a higher predisposition to certain cancers, namely oesophageal cancer. According to experts, some signs could be hinting that the condition is taking a turn for the worse.
The symptoms that characterise cancer often reflect the cell or organ that has become diseased.
Cancer that grows in the oesophagus – the tube that carries food and liquid to the stomach – has a number of known risk factors, the biggest being Barrett’s oesophagus.
Chronic acid reflux can irritate the squamous cells near the stomach, causing them to become glandular cells.
Doctor James East, Consultant and Endoscopist at Mayo Clinic Healthcare in London, said: “It’s thought that chronic irritation of your oesophagus may contribute to the changes associated with an increased risk of oesophageal cancer.”
READ MORE: Bowel cancer: Dr Philippa shares symptoms you need to spot – ‘Look at the toilet paper’
The condition, in some cases, can progress to a more severe form of reflux known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), at which point the disease may trigger changes in the tissue lining the lower oesophagus.
“I’d recommend that those concerned about acid reflux ask their doctor what signs and symptoms to watch out for that could signal that your condition is worsening,” added Doctor East.
He continued: “These may include difficulty swallowing, chest pain, pressure or burning, and worsening indigestion or heartburn.”
Severe coughs, a hoarse voice and sore throat, achalasia (a muscular condition) or sinus infections may also be hinting at cancer, added Monika Wassermann, MD at oliolusso.
The expert added: “People who experience acid reflux of GERD consistently and frequently are at higher risk than their compatriots who have irregular acid reflux episodes.”
Historically, acid reflux patients have depended on proton-pump inhibitors to appease their symptoms.
But while symptomatic relief is facilitated by the drug, long-term use has been associated with an increased risk of dementia, heart attack and chronic kidney disease.
Doctor Rehan Haidry, Consultant Gastroenterologist and Endoscopist practising at University College London, commented: “Heartburn is extremely common, with more than 50 million prescriptions issued each year for heartburn, ulcers and acid reflux.
“But taking long-term medication has been shown to have side effects and has been implicated in an increased risk of heart disease and stomach cancer.”
In a bid to curb PPI use, Hospitals across the UK are adopting a new procedure for the condition which may promise better outcomes for patients.
“Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication (TIF) can help eliminate general GERD symptoms including upper abdominal pain, nausea/vomiting, stomach bleeding and swallowing disorders,” added doctor Haidry.
Rachel Furse, 57 years old, is one of few to have undergone the procedure after enduring years of debilitating symptoms from acid reflux.
Describing her plight, she explained: “I had the head of the bed on blocks and two pillows with a V pillow on top and I was still waking up during the night with reflux.
“My stomach was constantly bloated and the pain was not good. Very much like a niggling toothache. I almost got used to living with this.”
“After a very frightening episode one night at the beginning of 2020 where I couldn’t swallow my saliva, I made […] an appointment with a doctor whom I hadn’t seen before.”
Doctor Rehan Haidry, who is currently the only UK doctor to perform TIF, was able to conduct the procedure in the midst of the pandemic.
Not only was the recovery quick and pain minimal, but the results were “fantastic”, said Miss Furse.
She added: “I now wake up in the morning with no stomach pain! I can sleep with the bed in a normal position with two pillows. No painkillers, no proton pump inhibitors and no worrying about what I can and cannot eat.”
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