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Patient Dave Marshall was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2017.

Dave Marshall thought heartburn and acid reflux were just small annoyances, nothing to be too concerned about. He knew a colonoscopy was a recommended cancer screening, but had never been told about an endoscopy before.

That’s why he was shocked when a 2017 visit to a doctor to get clearance for shoulder surgery turned into an esophageal cancer diagnosis.

“I had never even heard of it before,” Marshall said.

Esophageal cancer only makes up about 1% of cancers diagnosed in the United States. More than 17,500 new cases of esophageal cancer will be diagnosed this year. Men are more likely than women to get the disease.

The initial plan was to undergo chemotherapy and radiation before surgery, but after six weeks of treatment Marshall learned the cancer had spread to his trachea and surgery was no longer an option. Instead, he would continue chemotherapy.

Then last May, Marshall’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. Both had become Moffitt Cancer Center patients, supporting each other and keeping positive attitudes. Marshall’s wife had surgery and has been doing well ever since.

More than a year after his diagnosis, Marshall is doing well on chemotherapy. “What keeps me going is my faith,” he said. “I would encourage anyone in my situation to stay strong and don’t give up. Miracles happen every day—new advancements are made every day—and who knows when they will come up with a cure.”

He would advise anyone with acid reflux to talk to their doctor and hopes to raise more awareness for the disease.

You are at higher risk for esophageal cancer if you have reflux, Barrett’s esophagus or a history of using tobacco products and drinking alcohol. For more information on the disease, click here.