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President's reflux diagnosis in wake of sore throat
"teachable moment" says ECAN
Hopes Americans learn more about symptoms & risks of reflux

president obamaNews of President Obama’s recent reflux disease diagnosis could help save the lives of thousands of Americans living with the same condition. After complaining of a sore throat for weeks, the President was diagnosed with reflux disease. 

ECAN hopes this announcement will be a teachable moment for those living with a persistent sore throat and other symptoms that few associate with reflux disease.  Most of us don’t think of a sore throat, hoarse voice, persistent cough or choking when we lie down as symptoms of reflux disease, which mostly, we think of as heartburn.

“The focus of the national media on the fact that President Obama discovered his reflux disease because of a persistent sore throat elevates the understanding of the important link between reflux and symptoms that aren’t usually associated with the condition,” said gastroenterologist ECAN Chairman Dr. Bruce D. Greenwald, professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center.

In reflux disease, also called GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), stomach contents, including stomach acid, backs up into the esophagus and sometimes all the way up to the throat. This can burn the lining of the esophagus and throat, causing inflammation. 

Increased understanding of the various – but often misunderstood – symptoms of reflux disease could save lives because reflux disease is the cause of one of the deadliest and fastest increasing cancers in the United States. 

The type of Esophageal Cancer that kills the most Americans is caused by reflux disease.  But symptoms of this cancer don’t appear until the disease has progressed to stages when it is nearly impossible to treat successfully.  So most Esophageal Cancer isn’t discovered until it reaches those deadly late stages.  That’s why fewer than 20 percent of Esophageal Cancer patients will survive five years – most die within the first 12 months of diagnosis.

As reflux disease changes the lining of the esophagus on the way to producing cancer, it creates a diagnosable condition known as Barrett’s Esophagus.  In precancerous cases, this condition can be treated and cured with new, outpatient procedures.  The result is that many patients who discover their disease early will never have to go on to develop cancer.  That’s the reason why ECAN works tirelessly to increase public awareness about the link between reflux disease and Esophageal Cancer.

“Reflux disease will never lead to cancer for most people, but we don’t yet have a way to determine who will be unlucky and develop this devastating disease,” said Mindy Mintz Mordecai, ECAN’s President and CEO, who founded the non-profit after losing her husband and the father of their two young daughters to esophageal cancer in 2008.

Mordecai’s husband choked and coughed at night for years without realizing he had reflux. Since founding ECAN, Mordecai has heard countless stories about patients who never realized they had symptoms of reflux disease or never told their healthcare provider about it until it was too late. 

“That’s why we believe everyone needs to pay attention to their reflux symptoms,” she added.

Esophageal Cancer affects men four times more often than women and more often it affects men over the age of 50. With this in mind, ECAN encourages the President (age 53) to undergo endoscopic examination of his esophagus to be certain he is not at risk for this deadly disease.


On Giving Tuesday, ECAN supporters #unselfie'd with messages of hope and determination

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ECAN supporters participated in Giving Tuesday on December 2nd by donating, volunteering and by posting important "unselfie" messages on social media about why they support ECAN.


ECAN's Founder Selected for  NCI Task Force
Representing Patients' Interests in Research Funding Decisions

Mindy Mintz Mordecai headshotThe Esophageal Cancer Action Network is proud to announce that ECAN President & CEO Mindy Mintz Mordecai has been named to the National Cancer Institute's Esophagogastric Task Force of the Gastrointestinal Steering Committee and the NCI Patient Advocate Steering Committee.

Ms. Mordecai serves as a Patient Advocate Representative on the Task Force that is focused on improving the clinical research that impacts Esophageal and Gastric cancer patients.

"It's a great honor and priviledge to be selected as one of two advocates representing patients on this important Task Force," said Ms. Mordecai.  "Because research dollars are so scarce, especially for Esophageal and Gastric cancers, the decisions made by this group can make a real difference in what can be accomplished in medical research in the future."

The NCI Patient Advocate Steering Committee works to make the voice of patients heard as important research decisions are made at the National Cancer Institute.



They Ran to Save Lives  & Heal the Pain of Loss Daughters ran Marathons to support ECAN in Memory of their Dads
Melissa Maguire ran the New York City Marathon

melissa maguire runs with dad
Melissa Maguire runs in 2013 NYC Marathon;
with her father James Maguire at her wedding

Melissa Maguire of Jersey City, New Jersey joined more than 50,000 runners in the 2014 New York City Marathon. Along with fellow marathoners, Melissa had an unseen running buddy.

“He may not be by my side anymore, but he is not lost to me,” said Maguire, speaking of her dad, James Maguire of Matawan, N.J., Her father was healthy and active throughout his life. But in 2008 at the age of 60, he started experiencing pain in his abdomen and was diagnosed with Stage IV Esophageal Cancer.

“My father was my hero and life preserver,” Maguire said.  “I had been a daddy’s girl my whole life and the thought of losing him was crushing. I needed an outlet for my stress and it turned out to be running.” 

An Executive Producer with NY1, New York City's 24-hour local TV news station, Melissa ran her first half-marathon in 2009 with her father cheering from the sidelines. Sadly, the cancer eventually spread to his brain and James Maguire died on Jan. 7, 2011.

With two marathons under her belt, Melissa decided to partner with ECAN for this year’s New York City Marathon.  You can still support Melissa's Marathon at

“I decided this time around to raise money for ECAN because no one should have to say goodbye to their daddy when he’s only 63,” Maguire said.  “Heartburn should not be ignored because, as ECAN’s slogan says, it can cause cancer.”  


Jessica Sargent ran the Marine Corps Marathon

jessica marathon dad at wedding
Jessica Sargent with Marathon medal (L);
runs in shirt back in memory of her dad;
bride & father Thomas Burns at wedding

Among the more than 30,000 runners who participated in the 2014 Marine Corps Marathon  through Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. on October 26th, one 25-year-old woman was running to save lives.  That’s because Jessica Sargent wore the message that Heartburn can cause Cancer on her back in the hope that other families won’t have to suffer as hers did. 

The week before her May 2013 wedding, her father, Thomas “Burnzy” Burns was diagnosed with stage III esophageal cancer.  Despite aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments, a 14-hour surgery and “his unwavering spirit,” her father passed away, Oct. 25, 2013.  He was 48 years old.

“Running has always been an outlet for me and it took on a new role in my life as I coped with the loss of my father,” said Sargent, an ER nurse at St Luke’s University Hospital in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

“When I realized that the 2014 Marine Corps Marathon would take place on the weekend that marks the one-year anniversary of Daddy's death, I immediately knew that I needed to run it for him and all the other esophageal cancer patients that leave us too soon,” she added. “While training for this marathon, I felt very close to my dad – as though he is right there with me cheering me along with each step.”

Sargent has partnered with ECAN and created a fundraising campaign in conjunction with her participation in the marathon.  Gifts can be donated online at

“Together with ECAN, I can help make people aware that heartburn can cause cancer.”


Congressional Caucus on Deadliest Cancers
ECAN active member of coalition backing the effort 

deadliest cancers caucus briefing 6-19-14.jpgA bipartisan caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives has been formed to focus attention on cancers with a survival rate of less than 50%, including Esophageal Cancer.  The caucus was formed with the support of the Deadliest Cancers Coalition which is a collaboration of organizations, including ECAN, that are focused on these deadly cancers.

A briefing was organized by the Congressional Caucus on the Deadlist Cancers drew a standing-room only crowd and featured remarks from co-chairs of the Caucus, including Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-CA, pictured here.

ECAN is working to increase membership in the caucus and will launch a campaign to raise awareness among members of Congress about the need for more resources and public awareness about Esophageal Cancer and other of the deadliest cancers.  You can participate in our advocacy effort by signing up here.


1st HEARING about CANCER on the HILL IN 6 YRS!
including Testimony from Actor Valerie Harper
and NCI Director Harold Varmus







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Can Stories
Save Lives?

YES, they can

and they WILL

Stories to Save Lives

Join ECAN in
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next year on

May 1st & 2nd
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