I didn’t. And I should. Why? Because I am in the business of preventing esophageal cancer by controlling acid reflux disease in kids. The picture you see is what an esophagus (the swallowing tube) looks like before it becomes a cancer. This is very rare in children, but not so rare in adults. Looks pretty awful, doesn’t it?
I am sure many of you didn’t know that little kids spitting up, or little boys burping, “you know the way little boys do,” or some kids who have a wet barky cough all the time or won’t sleep but an hour at a time for months or years on end or a runny nose non-stop (practically from birth) even with many courses of antibiotics, really have acid and other nasty stomach contents coming up and causing all sorts of these problems. It’s the airway problems, such as refractory asthma or airway narrowing, that can be really worrisome. And these are the airway problems that affect a large portion of the patients whom I treat.
The real challenge is to get the kids to eat the right foods and live a less hectic lifestyle so that they grow up without the acid bathing the esophagus where the cancer rates are rising. Sometimes convincing the parents is the harder task. I am sorry if these facts are alarming, but this is a real concern:
- Esophageal cancer rates are increasing faster than the rates of any other cancer in the world–over 400%.
- Esophageal cancer is occurring more frequently at a younger age (the youngest known case is a 19 year old male).
- Esophageal cancer is highly linked to gastro-esophageal and extra-esophageal reflux disease. These are different problems. GER (gastro-esophageal reflux) goes from the stomach and into the esophagus (swallowing tube). EER (extra-esophageal reflux) goes from the stomach, through the esophagus and up and out into the nose, sinuses, voice box, windpipe mouth and throat and sometimes into the lungs.
- The effects of medications are not fully known so dietary therapy and life style changes are essential components of treatment.
My advice is to teach your children to eat well and to take care of their tummies and the rest of their bodies. But there are some kids who, even with excellent diets and good eating habits, will continue to reflux. Talk to your primary care physician. Sometimes a specialist needs to get involved.
Most importantly, if your doctor tells you that your kid needs to eat differently, lose weight or change some activities, please, please listen. It might bring on more than a few tears now, but later on it might save his or her life.
I hope you found this helpful. At least I feel better now.