Esophageal cancer is cancer that occurs in the esophagus — a long, hollow tube that runs from your throat to your stomach.
Esophageal cancer is the sixth most common cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Incidence rates vary within different geographic locations. In some regions, higher rates of esophageal cancer cases may be attributed to tobacco and alcohol use or particular nutritional habits and obesity.
Signs and symptoms of esophageal cancer include:
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- Weight loss without trying
- Chest pain, pressure or burning
- Worsening indigestion or heartburn
Early esophageal cancer typically causes no signs or symptoms because it doesn’t cause obstruction. By the time the cancer grows and obstruct the lumen, the disease is already quite advanced. That’s why most patients presented to doctor with advanced disease.
If you’ve been diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus, a precancerous condition that increases your risk of esophageal cancer caused by chronic acid reflux, ask your doctor what signs and symptoms to watch for that may signal that your condition is worsening.
Unfortunately, there is no screening tools to prevent cancer of oesophagus. The only group of patient that would benefited from oesophageal cancer are those patient with barrett’s oesophagus.
Types of esophageal cancer
Esophageal cancer is classified according to the type of cells that are involved. The type of esophageal cancer you have helps determine your treatment options. Types of esophageal cancer include:
Adenocarcinoma. Adenocarcinoma begins in the cells of mucus-secreting glands in the esophagus. Adenocarcinoma occurs most often in the lower portion of the esophagus. Adenocarcinoma is the most common form of esophageal cancer in the United States, and it affects primarily white men.
Squamous cell carcinoma. The squamous cells are flat, thin cells that line the surface of the esophagus. Squamous cell carcinoma occurs most often in the upper and middle portions of the esophagus. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most prevalent esophageal cancer worldwide.
It’s thought that chronic irritation of your esophagus may contribute to the changes that cause esophageal cancer. Factors that cause irritation in the cells of your esophagus and increase your risk of esophageal cancer include:
- Having precancerous changes in the cells of the esophagus (Barrett’s esophagus)
- Drinking alcohol
- Having a steady habit of drinking very hot liquids
As esophageal cancer advances, it can cause complications, such as:
- Obstruction of the esophagus. Cancer may make it difficult or impossible for food and liquid to pass through your esophagus.
- Pain. Advanced esophageal cancer can cause pain.
- Bleeding in the esophagus. Esophageal cancer can cause bleeding. Though bleeding is usually gradual, it can be sudden and severe at times.
How do i lower my risk of getting cancer of oesophagus?
Quit smoking. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about strategies for quitting. Medications and counseling are available to help you quit. If you don’t use tobacco, don’t start.
Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger.
Eat more fruits and vegetables. Add a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to your diet.
Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is known to be a risk factor for cancer of the esophagus
Diagnosis and Staging
Diagnosis of esophageal cancer requires gastroscopy. The esophageal cancer is examined and biopsy is taken. The diagnosis is confirmed with the examination of the biopsy sample under the microscope. Staging is the process where the doctor determine whether the cancer has spread. The diagnositic tools for staging include endoscopic ultrasound, CT scan and PET scan.
Treatment of esophageal cancer includes surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, depending on the stage of the disease.