Even if you haven't heard of this bug, you certainly know about the trouble it can cause: ulcers, which nearly 25 million Americans suffer from. But did you know that, left untreated, those ulcers can lead to cancer?
What it is A bacteria that finds its way into your stomach (possibly from food or water) and, for some, causes no problems. However, for others, the results can be devastating.
What it can do H. pylori gets into trouble when it dissolves the mucous lining that normally protects your stomach from the acid necessary to digestion. That acid, in turn, damages the cells of your stomach lining just as the sun damages your skin cells, causing irritation, inflammation and creating the potential for cancerous cell growth.
What you can do If you experience ulcer symptoms such as stomach pain, gas, bloating, indigestion, and hunger soon after eating, see your doctor. They can perform a very simple breath test to determine if you have H. pylori. And, even though many people harbor H. pylori and never develop ulcers or stomach cancer, your doctor may decide to treat you, particularly if you have a history of gastric cancer in your family.