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Side Effect: Heartburn

What is Heartburn?

Heartburn, also known as acid reflux, is a common condition that is usually caused by a malfunctioning of the ring of muscle that separates the esophagus from the stomach called the lower esophageal sphincter. This allows stomach acid to flow back up into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest or throat.

What does Heartburn look like?

Heartburn can look different in different people, but it is often described as a burning sensation in the chest that may be accompanied by a sour or bitter taste in the mouth, difficulty swallowing, or regurgitation of food or liquid.


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Who gets Heartburn?

Heartburn can affect anyone, but certain factors can increase the risk of developing it, such as obesity, pregnancy, smoking, and certain medical conditions such as hiatal hernia or scleroderma. In cancer patients, heartburn can be a side effect of chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

How to prevent Heartburn

There are several ways to prevent heartburn, including avoiding trigger foods such as fatty or spicy foods, avoiding large meals, avoiding lying down after eating, losing weight if necessary, and quitting smoking.

How to treat Heartburn

Treatment may involve lifestyle modifications such as staying upright after eating, avoiding trigger foods, and eating smaller, more frequent meals. Medications such as antacids (Tums®, Maalox®, Mylanta®), proton pump inhibitors, or histamine-2 receptor antagonists to reduce acid production may be used if symptoms don’t improve despite lifestyle modifications.

Over the counter proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)

Prescription only proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)

Over the counter histamine-2 receptor antagonists (H2Ras)

Medications to treat heartburn may interfere with certain oral chemotherapy agents by raising the pH of the stomach and affecting drug absorption. Before starting any therapy for heartburn, talk with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure the therapy does not interact with your cancer treatment.


1) Yadlapati R, Gyawali CP, and Pandolfino JE. AGA Clinical Practice Update on the Personalized Approach to the Evaluation and Management of GERD: Expert Review. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2022;20(5):984-994

Created: January 9, 2024 Updated: January 23, 2024