By Dr. Brian McDonough, Medical Editor

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Heartburn can be extremely annoying but did you know it could cause cancer?

I bring this up because years ago most people with serious heartburn issues went to the doctor’s office to get medication to treat it. In fact the only way to get some of the best medications was with a prescription. But all of that has changed because over the years many of the prescription medications have gone over the counter and as a result lots of people with heartburn do not get seen.

This means that heartburn can become a very serious chronic problem.

The cancer link is due to the fact that certain forms of heart burn are linked to anatomic problems and conditions like Barrett’s esophagus but, to make that diagnosis, a workup is necessary and a test called an endoscopy needs to be done.

The bottom line is that if you have chronic heartburn get it checked out.