Esophageal Cancer Awareness
About 18,000 people each year in the United States are diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus. Treatment of this disease requires a multidisciplinary team approach that often includes practitioners from many different specialties. This is because the appropriate treatment esophageal cancer varies greatly according to how it presents.
In some cases, gastroenterology doctors are able to treat patients completely with scope procedures and the patient may never need a surgery. We have an excellent team of medical and radiation oncologists who administer chemotherapy and radiation when needed. When surgery is required, it is often able to be accomplished through a minimally invasive approach using cameras and scopes rather than larger incisions. We individualize each patient, designing a best treatment regimen unique for him or her.
According to the Esophageal Cancer Awareness Association, there are two main types of esophageal cancer:
Cancer of the esophagus can start anywhere along the length of the esophagus. Each develops in a different kind of cell.
Squamous cell carcinoma: the most common type of esophageal cancer worldwide. South Central Asia’s “esophageal cancer belt” region is reported as having some of the highest rates of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma worldwide, affecting both males and females at similar rates. Squamous cell carcinoma starts in the squamous cells that line the esophagus. These cancers are usually found in the upper and middle part of the esophagus. Normally these cancers are caused by heavy alcohol consumption and smoking, but there have been other documented risk factors as well.
Adenocarcinoma: the most common type in the United States and in Western Europe. Esophageal adenocarcinoma is one of the fastest increasing of all cancers in the United States. Adenocarcinoma starts in the glandular cells in the lower part of the esophagus and may occur at or near the junction of the esophagus and the stomach, known as the gastroesophageal (GE) – junction. Normally these cancers are caused by Acid Reflux and are linked to obesity.
Risk Factors for Esophageal Cancer:
There isn’t a known single cause of esophageal cancer.
Cancer risk refers to a person’s risk of developing cancer. Any substance or condition that increases the risk of cancer is referred to as a risk factor. Most cancers are the result of many risk factors. However, some people with esophageal cancer do not have any identifiable risk factors.
One major factor is frequent exposure of the esophagus to stomach acid, or acid reflux. Having a Hiatus Hernia will cause acid reflux, which may give rise to gastric-esophageal reflux disease or GERD.
In time, GERD may develop into a condition called Barrett’s esophagus in which the cells lining the esophagus are structurally altered by long term exposure to stomach acid. Barrett’s esophagus itself does not affect the health of a person. However, in a small number of people there is a chance that these altered cells will develop into a pre-cancerous state and eventually into an invasive carcinoma.
Obesity is linked to this cancer as well. Some of the common major risk factors are smoking, alcohol abuse, dietary factors, and drinking liquids at extremely hot temperatures.
Even though a multitude of risk factors and diseases affect the esophagus in various ways, the warning signs are similar. The symptoms are found to very similar in nature and the ways in which they get treated also are found to be similar (depending on stages). The progression of disease to happens in the same manner as they start from the outer most cell tissues and layers to the deep parts of the esophagus and from there to the surrounding organs and lymph nodes.
For more information on risk factors, visit the Esophageal Cancer Awareness Association. http://www.ecaware.org/what-is-esophageal-cancer/risk-factors/
Common Symptoms of Esophageal Cancer:
Most people do not have symptoms until the tumor blocks the esophagus, making it difficult to swallow.
However – as the cancer grows – common symptoms may include:
- Difficult or painful swallowing
- Weight loss
- Blood in the stool
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling very tired
- Heartburn (GERD)
- Pain in the throat or back
- Hoarseness or coughing
The symptoms described above may be caused by esophageal cancer or other health problems. If you have any of these symptoms, you should tell your doctor so that problems can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.
Other health problems can cause some of the same symptoms. Testing is needed to make a proper diagnosis.
Information provided by http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/esophagus.pdf
Diagnosis of Esophageal Cancer:
The Surgeons Group of Baton Rouge uses upper gastrointestinal endoscopy to screen for esophageal cancer. Endoscopy is a procedure that uses an endoscope to examine the inside of the body. An endoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue to be checked under a microscope for signs of disease.
If you have any of the symptoms listed above, you should tell your doctor so that problems can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.