Mercy Gastroenterologist Dr. Patrick Hyatt Explores “Heartburn” and How it Can Put You at Risk

March 23, 2021
The Institute for Digestive Health and Liver Disease at Mercy - Baltimore, MD

Most people have experienced heartburn or acid reflux, but if it's happening often, you might want to see a doctor. In some cases, it could be an early sign of cancer.

Maureen Wilhelm, 70, said she suffered from acid reflux for five years until she finally went to a doctor for an endoscopy.

“When I did, I had low-grade dysplasia, and within a year it went to high grade dysplasia and then cancer,” Wilhelm said.

She was diagnosed with Barrett's Esophagus, which is a condition in which the lining of the esophagus has changed because of acid.

“The problem is acid exposure over time causes inflammation. Inflammation can lead to cellular changes, which can predispose to cancer,” said Patrick A. Hyatt, M.D., Director, The Center for Heartburn and Reflux Disease, at The Institute for Digestive Health & Liver Disease at Mercy Medical Center.

Luckily for Wilhelm, it was caught early, which Dr. Hyatt said is key.

“Esophageal cancer is very serious. It can spread very rapidly. It's important to identify patients who may have precancerous changes early on. The good news is the vast majority can be treated endoscopically and not require surgery,” Dr. Hyatt said.

According to Dr. Hyatt,  if you have heartburn with more than two to three episodes persistently, you should see a doctor. To prevent heartburn he says avoid spicy, acidic foods, caffeine and chocolate and avoid eating late at night, overeating and eating too quickly.

Dr. Hyatt treated Wilhelm with endoscopic ablation. He basically burned away the cancerous tissues. New tissue grew back healthy and she's now cancer free.

“I was elated. I was just, it was the best news I could hear,” she said.

To view Mercy gastroenterologist Dr. Patrick Hyatt’s interview regarding acid reflux, heartburn and Barrett’s Esophagus, click here.


Dan Collins - Senior Director of Media Relations at Mercy Medical Center

Dan Collins, Senior Director of Media Relations

Email: dcollins@mdmercy.com Office: 410-332-9714 Cell: 410-375-7342

About Mercy

Founded in 1874 in downtown Baltimore by the Sisters of Mercy, Mercy Medical Center is a 183-licensed bed acute care university-affiliated teaching hospital. Mercy has been recognized as a top Maryland hospital by U.S. News & World Report; a Top 100 hospital for Women’s Health & Orthopedics by Healthgrades; is currently A-rated for Hospital Safety (Leapfrog Group), and is recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a Magnet Hospital. Mercy Medical Center is part of Mercy Health Services (MHS), the parent of Mercy’s primary care and specialty care physician enterprise, known as Mercy Personal Physicians, which employs more than 200 providers with locations in Baltimore, Lutherville, Overlea, Glen Burnie, Columbia and Reisterstown. For more information about Mercy, visit www.mdmercy.com, MDMercyMedia on FacebookTwitter, or call 1-800-MD-Mercy.

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