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If you overdo the turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and pie, you may wind up with heartburn. But if you have persistent heartburn, your symptoms could indicate something other than the aftermath of overeating. You could have Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease – GERD – which could escalate to a more serious disorder, even potentially to cancer. GERD affects one out of five people, and is the result of food or liquid leaking back from the stomach to the esophagus, irritating the esophagus and producing heartburn and other symptoms, such as regurgitation, chest pain and even chronic cough or voice problems. Thanksgiving week , Nov. 18-24, is GERD Awareness Week.“Most people can be treated with modest diet changes and daily medication,” said Philip Katz, MD, chairman of the Division of Gastroenterology at Einstein Healthcare Network. “But it’s important to be evaluated rather than mask frequent symptoms with over-the-counter medications.”GERD can cause cells in the esophagus to become abnormal, which, if left unmonitored and untreated, can develop into cancer. Esophageal cancer is the fastest growing cancer in the country.Dr. Katz has a state-of-the-art esophageal testing laboratory at Einstein, where he’s conducting research into GERD, a condition that’s becoming more common with the population’s increasing obesity and advancing age. His specialty is a type of GERD that doesn’t respond to acid-reducing medications and doesn’t show telltale damage to the esophagus, called non-erosive reflux disease (NERD) or refractory GERD. “Many people don’t take GERD seriously and dismiss it as heartburn and consider it harmless,” Dr. Katz said. “But people who have heartburn more than twice a week or who have other symptoms should see their care provider, as it could be a sign of something more serious.”