Tennessee Shines a Light for Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month

This post was contributed by a community member.

The Island in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee (April 12-13, 2021) – On the evenings of Monday, April 12, and Tuesday, April 13, 2021, the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel at The Island in Pigeon Forge will be illuminated with periwinkle blue light in honor of Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month. Esophageal Cancer is the fastest increasing cancer among American men – and one of the deadliest. Raising awareness about this cancer is particularly important because most Americans don’t know that the type of Esophageal Cancer most prevalent in the U.S. is caused by acid reflux or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). In recent years, the type of Esophageal Cancer caused by reflux disease has doubled among younger patients and they are most often diagnosed at hard-to-treat late stages.

The Esophageal Cancer Action Network (ECAN) spearheaded the movement to designate April as Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month more than ten years ago. ECAN is a national nonprofit organization based in Baltimore, Maryland. Its mission is to save lives by increasing awareness about the link between acid reflux and Esophageal Cancer.

“One American dies of this preventable cancer every 36 minutes, and the type of Esophageal Cancer increasing so rapidly in the U.S. is usually caused by reflux disease,” said ECAN President and CEO Mindy Mintz Mordecai. An attorney and former television journalist, Mordecai founded the organization after losing her husband and the father of their two young children to the disease in 2008.

Facts about Esophageal Cancer:

  • Most cases of Esophageal Cancer in the United States are caused by acid reflux.
  • Reflux symptoms include heartburn, chronic cough, sore throat, hoarse voice, choking when lying down.
  • Only one out of five patients diagnosed with Esophageal Cancer will survive five years, largely because it is usually discovered at late stages when treatment is rarely effective.
  • When treated at early stages, Esophageal Cancer survival rates are dramatically improved.
  • Esophageal Cancer can be prevented if its precursor – a condition called Barrett’s Esophagus – is detected and treated.
  • Barrett’s Esophagus causes no symptoms – in fact, many patients will get a false sense of security because their heartburn symptoms often go away when they develop this condition.
  • Only 14% of Americans know that reflux disease can lead to cancer. *
  • Esophageal Cancer accounts for 2.6% of U.S. cancer deaths, but currently gets just 1/2% of the federal cancer research budget.

ECAN has a free, downloadable Guide for Patients at

About ECAN

ECAN’s mission is to save lives by increasing awareness about the link between heartburn and cancer, promoting early detection, and supporting medical innovation to prevent, detect and treat Esophageal Cancer. The Baltimore-based, national non-profit organization is led by a board of directors of top physicians, business leaders, and families that have been touched by Esophageal Cancer.

ECAN published an innovative, downloadable Guide for Patients with input from leading doctors across the nation, and it successfully advocated with the National Cancer Institute to include Esophageal Cancer in its groundbreaking genome-mapping project known as The Cancer Genome Atlas.

For more information, visit www.ecan.org.

*According to a 2017 nationwide IPSOS poll of more than 1,000 Americans commissioned by ECAN.

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