BALTIMORE, May 17, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Esophageal Cancer, the disease that today took the life of Minnesota Twins Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew, is the nation's fastest increasing cancer, up more than 400 percent in the past 20 years – and one of the deadliest. Fewer than one in five people will survive five years with the disease. According to the Esophageal Cancer Action Network (ECAN), even more alarming, in the U.S., Esophageal Cancer is usually caused by persistent heartburn or acid reflux disease (GERD).
But the low survival rate seen in Esophageal Cancer could be dramatically impacted by early detection. If caught at the precancerous stage known as Barrett's Esophagus, latest medical technologies have produced cure rates of 98 percent. Sadly, most patients are diagnosed with Esophageal Cancer in advanced stages because the only symptom of the disease is often a difficulty in swallowing. But that problem only begins once a tumor has grown large enough to block food going down the esophagus. That swallowing difficulty usually signals disease at advanced stages when treatment is rarely successful. Find out more at www.ecan.org.
"With the advances we now have in medical technology, this disease can be prevented – yet for more and more people, the failure to undergo screening results in tragedy," said Dr. Bruce Greenwald, ECAN Chairman and Professor of Gastroenterology at the University of Maryland Stewart & Marlene Greenebaum Cancer Center.
"Early detection can save lives, but so many people don't realize they are at risk," said ECAN President and founder Mindy Mintz Mordecai.
ECAN suggests those who suffer with heartburn two or more times per week over the course of several weeks, should speak with their doctor about screening for Esophageal Cancer. Those who once suffered heartburn symptoms on a regular basis, and now find those symptoms have disappeared, should be aware that could be a sign that the esophageal lining has changed in response to the acid - and that change could result in Esophageal Cancer. An unexplained persistent cough, sore throat, hoarse voice or choking, may be the sign of silent reflux which should be addressed by a physician.
Based in Baltimore, the Esophageal Cancer Action Network is the only national nonprofit advocacy organization whose mission is to save lives through public awareness of the link between Heartburn and Cancer.
SOURCE Esophageal Cancer Action Network