Health Watch - Heartburn: Danger Signs

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.


This week on Health Watch, we’ve been talking about heartburn – what causes it and how to treat it. Most of the time, heartburn is a minor annoyance. But it could also be a sign of something more serious.

About 40 percent of Americans suffer from heartburn at least once a month. It’s probably nothing to worry about if you’re one of these people, but sometimes it means esophageal cancer or Barrett’s esophagus. Dr. Stuart Spechler, a digestive expert at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says that if you’re taking medicine to treat heartburn every day, there may be cause for concern.

Danger signs to look for include difficulty swallowing, weight loss, pain from swallowing, frequent fevers or signs of bleeding, such as passing black stools. If you experience regular heartburn and have one of these symptoms, you should see your doctor immediately.

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February 2011


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