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Reduce Your Esophageal Cancer Risk By Adopting Healthy Lifestyle Habits

Atrium Health Navicent invites the community to observe Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month during April by learning more about the risks posed by persistent gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) and smoking, and how adopting healthy lifestyle habits reduce esophageal cancer risk.

Esophageal cancer affects the esophagus, which is the long, muscular tube that moves food from the mouth to the stomach. According to the American Cancer Society, 20,640 new cases of esophageal cancer will be diagnosed in 2022, resulting in about 16,410 deaths. The lifetime risk of esophageal cancer in the United States is about 1 in 125 for men and about 1 in 417 for women.

One major risk factor for esophageal cancer is GERD, commonly known as acid reflux or chronic heartburn. GERD is caused when the gastroesophageal valve allows stomach contents to wash backwards, or reflux, into the esophagus, causing injury to the esophageal lining. Persistent acid reflux can lead to a condition called Barrett’s esophagus. If left untreated, Barrett’s esophagus can lead to cancer. An estimated 20 percent of American adults suffer from GERD.

Fortunately, Atrium Health Navicent Heartburn Treatment Center is committed to helping treat those with GERD.

Treatment paths include medication, endoscopic procedures and minimally invasive surgery. The goal of treatment is to provide symptomatic relief, to heal esophagitis (if present), and avoidance of complications.

Two other major risk factors include chronic alcohol use and chronic tobacco use. Tobacco use is the most common lifestyle risk factor for developing esophageal cancer in the United States. Atrium Health Navicent Peyton Anderson Cancer Center offers a free, four-week smoking cessation class. The class involves group discussion, social support and guidance in choosing which method of quitting is best for you.

A great way to help decrease your risk for esophageal cancer is through healthy lifestyle choices. People who engage in regular physical activity may have a lower risk of developing esophageal cancer. In addition, a balanced diet that’s high in fruits and vegetables may also help to lower your risk.

“Unfortunately, the symptoms of esophageal cancer – difficulty swallowing, chest pain, bleeding and weight loss – may only be present after the disease has reached an advanced stage,” said Dr. Jay Anderson, a gastroenterologist practicing at Atrium Health Navicent Gastroenterology & Hepatology.” To help reduce your risk, avoid tobacco use and avoid or minimize alcohol intake. Also, if you suffer from GERD, be sure to have regular visits with your primary care physician who may refer you to a specialist for additional treatment.”

For more information about the Atrium Health Navicent Heartburn Treatment Center, call 478-633-4373 or 478-633-8771. To register for smoking cessation classes, call 478-633-3000. To find a doctor, visit and click “Find A Doctor.”

About Atrium Health Navicent

Atrium Health Navicent, the leading provider of health care in central and south Georgia, is committed to its mission of elevating health and wellbeing through compassionate care. Providing more than 1,000 beds and offering care in 53 specialties at more than 50 facilities throughout the region, Atrium Health Navicent provides care for health care consumers’ through an academic medical center; community, pediatric and rehabilitation hospitals; urgent care centers; physician practices; diagnostic centers; home health; hospice and palliative care; and a life plan community. Atrium Health Navicent is dedicated to enhancing health and wellness for individuals throughout the region through nationally recognized quality care, community health initiatives and collaborative partnerships. For more information, please visit