Medical Q&As

Reflux - cancer risk?

I was diagnosed two years ago with having gastro-oesophageal reflux. I do not seem to have obtained any relief from this condition despite being treated. I am concerned that this condition may lead to cancer of the oesophagus. Should I be worried?

A small number of people with chronic gastro-oesophageal reflux can eventually develop a condition known as Barrett’s oesophagus. This involves a change in the type of cell that lines the lower end of the oesophagus or gullet. It is not known why this change happens in a minority of reflux sufferers. A further small proportion of people with Barrett’s oesophagus can develop carcinoma at the lower end of the oesophagus, which is the reason why such people are followed up periodically in order to eliminate the abnormal cells should they develop. I stress again that this is an infrequent occurrence. Heartburn and reflux are often regarded as being insignificant problems however, if the symptoms are persistent or if they continue despite being medically treated then the person should be reassessed.