Q. I experience on and off acid reflux as well as mild dysphagia. Does it indicate esophageal cancer?

Answered by
Dr. Jennifer Schwartz, Md
and medically reviewed by Dr.Nithila A
This is a premium question & answer published on Jun 01, 2019

Hello doctor,

I am a 26-year-old male. I have been experiencing on and off acid reflux for a few weeks as well as mild dysphagia (strangely only at breakfast). I am afraid of esophageal cancer. I do not smoke and drink. I exercise regularly, and I am not overweight. I have no family history of any cancer. I do suffer from anxiety issues, though, and I have pollen allergies.

Dr. Jennifer Schwartz, Md

General Medicine Internal Medicine


Welcome to icliniq.com.

First, I would like to reassure you that dysphagia and reflux symptoms are very common and more common than esophageal cancer. I want to reassure you that this is very unlikely to be esophageal cancer. Esophageal cancer is more common in older patients who have a history of smoking and or alcohol abuse. In patients with reflux symptoms, those symptoms are usually longstanding, and progress to Barrett's esophagus before any cancer develops. I think that you have gastroesophageal reflux and I think your symptoms can be easily managed.

1. Start an over-the-counter reflux medication. I recommend Ranitidine 150 mg every 12 hours. It takes about 30 minutes to start working, and you can take this as soon as you get up in the morning.

2. Make sure to not eat for two to three hours before going to bed.

3. Avoid spicy or acidic foods, especially for breakfast when you complain you have the most symptoms. This would include avoiding ketchup, citric fruit juices, coffee, and tea. Try to eat a very bland diet for the next two to four weeks and see if that improves. Eggs and toast, for example, caffeine can cause acid, and so I recommend avoiding coffee and tea. If you must have it (as I can understand), try to wait until later in the morning and make sure that you have any coffee or tea with food (even just a dry piece of toast). If your symptoms have not improved in one month, you may need to see a gastroenterologist to be evaluated for esophagitis or an ulcer.

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