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GERD Surgery Doesn't Prevent Cancer

One type of cancer of the esophagus, adenocarcinoma, is increasing more rapidly than any other cancer in both Western Europe and the US. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) appears to be an important risk factor (and possible cause) of this adenocarcinoma. It is believed that in GERD, injury to the cells lining the esophagus by refluxed acid causes the cells to change. The changes (referred to as Barrett's esophagus) make the cells more likely to become adenocarcinomas.

The approach to treatment of uncomplicated GERD (simple heartburn) is to control symptoms by controlling acid (medication) or reflux (surgery). Complications of GERD, such as Barrett's esophagus or scarring and narrowing of the esophagus, are treated with either aggressive control of the acid--irrespective of symptoms--or anti-reflux surgery (also known as fundoplication). It is recommended that patients who develop Barrett's esophagus should undergo regular screening with gastrointestinal endoscopy and biopsy so that adenocarcinoma can be discovered early and cured.