Suffer from heartburn, acid reflux? It could be tell-tale sign of esophageal cancer

April is Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month. It is the sixth leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. One New Jersey doctor is trying to save lives by getting the word out about common symptoms of a condition that can lead to esophageal cancer.

Tom McKee is getting a follow-up procedure for a pre-cancerous condition called Barrett’s Esophagus at Cooper’s Digestive Health Institute in Mount Laurel. The 56-year-old has been suffering from chronic acid reflux for years, one of the tell-tale symptoms.

"My family had indigestion all the time," McKee explained. "It’s just like I’m the first one to get looked at, so I’m glad I did."

Tom’s doctor referred him to Dr. Anthony Infantolino, a leading expert in treating Barrett’s.

"Tom had high grade dysplasia, which means he was teetering on the fence of developing esophageal cancer," Dr. Infantolino stated.

Fortunately, Dr. Infantolino can reverse the effects by performing what’s known as radiofrequency ablation. "This is what strips off precancerous tissues in patients who have Barrett’s Esophagus," he explained. "Usually, it takes about two to four procedures and bring them back to a completely normal esophagus."

Tom got a touch-up ablation after several new, non-cancerous Barrett’s cells were detected.

After the short out-patient procedure, Tom said, "I feel 100 percent better. It’s amazing and so many people go through it and ignore the signs."

Those signs, besides long-standing acid reflux and heartburn, include a little extra weight around the middle, smokers and white men over 50 are most at risk.

Dr. Infantolino added, "It’s really important you speak to your doctor if you’re having symptoms and consider getting checked out for this because it may save your life."

"If I never went through any checkups, I wouldn’t be here talking to you right now," Tom continued. "Definitely, no doubt. I wouldn’t be here. It was that bad."