Not all heartburn is harmless. Experts warn of three symptoms in which you should seek help, writes Heartburn, known as acid reflux, is an unpleasant burning sensation in the chest caused by stomach acid reaching the throat. In most cases, this unpleasant symptom is aggravated by the combination of fatty or spicy foods and can be managed with medication, portion control and stress minimization.
However, health experts warn that in some cases, heartburn can be a symptom of something more serious. “People don’t always realize it, but not all heartburn is harmless,” said Mimi McCord, founder and chair of the charity Heartburn Cancer UK.
“While they are still treating the symptoms, the underlying cause may be killing them,” explains. Frequent heartburn can be a symptom of esophageal cancer. “Esophageal cancer is a killer that can hide in plain sight,” she added.
See your doctor if you have heartburn along with these other symptoms:
- food gets stuck in your throat
- you are often sick
- you lose weight for no reason.
Heartburn can alert you to 4 serious health problems:
The esophagus connects the mouth to the stomach. Heartburn is one of the symptoms caused by the spread of this little-known cancer. Most people don’t realize they have this cancer until they have trouble swallowing. By then, the disease may be too advanced to be easily cured.
Cancer can also affect digestion and its symptoms can include:
- swallowing problems
- heartburn or acid reflux,
- symptoms of indigestion such as frequent belching.
Other symptoms include:
- a cough that does not improve
- hoarse voice
- loss of appetite or weight loss without trying
- feeling tired or lacking energy,
- pain in the throat or in the middle of the chest, especially when swallowing,
- black feces,
- coughing up blood.
A hiatal hernia is when part of the stomach moves into the chest, which is a very common condition in people over 50 years of age. If it’s not causing you problems, usually no treatment is needed. With a hiatal hernia, you can:
- have a painful burning sensation in the chest, often after eating (heartburn),
- have bad breath
- feel bloated
- feeling or being sick
- have difficulty or pain when swallowing.
If you have these symptoms for more than three weeks or if they get progressively worse, you should see a doctor.
Stomach ulcers arise on gastric mucosa. Their most common symptom is a burning sensation in the middle of the abdomen – but they are not always painful. Less common symptoms include:
- digestive disorders,
- loss of appetite
- feeling sick and nauseous,
- weight loss
- belching or bloating after eating fatty foods.
If these symptoms persist, you should see a doctor.
For some people, the symptoms of a heart attack can be similar to indigestion. For example, you may experience a feeling of heaviness in your chest, stomach pain or heartburn. If heart pain lasts longer than 15 minutes, it could be a sign that you are having a heart attack. Other symptoms include:
- pain in other parts of the body – you may feel that the pain goes from your chest to your arms, jaw, neck, back or stomach,
- shortness of breath.
If you think you are having a heart attack, call 911 immediately.