Nausea, Indigestion, Heartburn: Do These Symptoms Mean GERD or Colon Cancer?

From the wrong diet to the flu to a pre-existing gastrointestinal condition, many factors can make your stomach hurt. Abdominal pain is usually mild and easily treatable with changes in diet and medications. But what if your abdominal pain is persistent, feels unusual, and disrupts your daily activities? What if the associated symptoms indicate GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) or something more serious like colon cancer? How do you differentiate between the very similar symptoms shared by both conditions?

To clear the air, Dr Azhar Parvez, Associate Director, GI Surgery, GI Oncology and Bariatric Surgery, Institute of Digestive and Hepatobiliary Sciences, Medanta, Gurugram explains, “Both stomach cancer and GERD are different. GERD occurs when cancer cells spread uncontrollably and grow rapidly in the stomach, also known as gastric cancer, while GERD occurs when stomach acid regularly leaks back up into the tube that connects your mouth and stomach. comes.”

According to the doctor, there is no known cause of colon cancer, but there are risk factors that can increase the risk:

• Tobacco use and excessive use may increase the risk of colon cancer

• Obesity has been linked to an increased risk of colon cancer. This may increase risk due to altered insulin signaling, chronic low-grade inflammation associated with obesity, and altered sex hormone metabolism.

• Regular consumption of salty foods has been linked to an increased risk of colon cancer. This includes foods that have been dried, smoked, salted or pickled, as well as foods with a high salt content. Fresh fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet may help reduce your risk.

On the other hand, sedentary lifestyle, alcoholism, obesity, smoking and unhealthy diet all contribute to GERD, the doctors share.

How to differentiate between the symptoms of GERD and colon cancer?

Dr. Samit Jain, MD; dm; DNB Gastroenterology, Berenson Scholar in Advanced Endoscopy (Harvard Medical School, USA), Consultant Gastroenterologist, Hepatologist, and Clinical Endoscopist, Jaslok Hospital & Research Centre, Mumbai, GERD patient with symptoms like reflux, retrosternal chest pain, nausea, recurrent vomiting Will be , whereas in a clinical patient with colon cancer, in addition to the symptoms experienced by GERD, loss of appetite, significant weight loss (about 10% of total body weight), persistent upper abdominal pain, sometimes recurrent There is a possibility of symptoms like vomiting. patients.

According to Dr Parvaiz, loss of appetite and weight loss are the two most common symptoms, while heartburn, regurgitation of food, a lump in the throat and upper abdominal pain are more common with GERD.

treatment options

Given that GERD is more benign, certain lifestyle changes such as losing weight, avoiding fatty and spicy foods, and medications can help reduce the symptoms of GERD. in more severe cases. Dr. Jain says that treating GERD with surgery is an option. “A patient may also opt for surgery if he does not want long-term dependence on medications and their potential side effects,” he says.

In the case of colon cancer, it is best managed under the supervision of a multidisciplinary team.

Treatment options depend on the stage of the cancer, including:

radical surgery

chemotherapy

radiotherapy
immunotherapy

According to the doctor, if the symptoms are similar or if the patient develops alarming symptoms like significant weight loss, swelling in the upper abdominal area, persistent vomiting even after taking medication, low hemoglobin (anaemia), then they require gastroscopy and some imaging modality Might be possible. Ultrasonography or CT abdomen to confirm the diagnosis of colon cancer.

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