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Esophageal cancer is a cancer that occurs on the walls of esophagus. Esophageal cancer can be caused by excess consumption of alcohol, use of tobacco or by issues of being over-weight. Esophageal cancer can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and targeted therapy.
We know that cancer starts to take place in the body when the body cells start to grow in an uncontrolled manner. This abnormal growth of cells can be caused in any part of the body so basically cancer can occur anywhere in the body. Here, we talk about esophageal cancer so first of all, we have to understand what is esophagus.
What is Esophagus?
Esophagus is a kind of hollow, muscular tube that connects throat with stomach. It is located behind trachea, which is commonly known as windpipe. Whenever we eat or drink something, it reaches our stomach by traveling through esophagus. The length of esophagus is between 10-13 inches in an adult. Wall of an esophagus has several layers:
- Mucosa: It is the inside layer of the esophagus. It also has three parts Epithelium, Lamina propria and Muscular is Mucosa.
- Submucosa: It lies just below mucosa and is a layer of connective tissue. It connects to blood vessels and nerves.
- Muscularis Propria: This thin layer of muscle lies under submucosa.
- Adventitia: It is formed by connective tissue and is the outermost layer of the esophagus.
Detailed understanding about Esophageal anatomy makes it easy to learn about Esophageal cancer in terms of origin and growth. This kind of cancer starts from the inner part of esophagus also known as mucosa and then grows outwardly. There are two types of cells in esophagus, so there are basically two types of esophageal cancer:
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma: This type of cancer occurs in the top or middle of esophagus. When cancer begins to spread, thin cells line the esophagus; the lining is called as squamous cell carcinoma.
- Adenocarcinoma: This type of cancer mostly occurs in the lower part of the esophagus. It starts in the glandular cells of the esophagus. These cells are required for the preparation of mucus.
Esophageal Cancer Symptoms
There are many symptoms that you may experience during esophageal cancer. These symptoms alone cannot determine the presence of early cancer but the symptoms of cancer can be clear as cancer grows to above stages. The factors are as follows:
- Enormous Weight Loss: The patient may lose a lot of weight unintentionally.
- Problem in Digestion: There can be indigestion problem with the patient during this kind of cancer.
- Difficulty in Swallowing: Patients can feel some pain as well as difficulty while swallowing food.
- Feeling Vomit: Patients can feel like vomiting every time.
- Puking Feeling: They may feel like food is coming back from the esophagus.
- Fatigue and Boredom: Patients can feel low and tired all the time.
- Chest Pain: Chest pain is a normal symptom for such patients.
- Choking While Eating: Frequent choking while eating the food is also a symptom.
- Chronic Cough: Cough is also a sign that is experienced during further stages of cancer.
Causes of Esophageal Cancer
Just like most cancers, the cause of esophageal cancer is yet to know. It’s believed to be related to abnormalities (mutations) in the DNA of the cells related to the esophagus. These mutations signal the cells to multiply more vigorously than normal cells. These mutations also disrupt the signal for these cells to die when they should. This causes them to accumulate and become tumors which when left untreated can form cancer. Abnormalities or mutation in the cells can be caused by:
- Alcohol consumption
- Lack of vegetables and fruits in diet
- Achalasia, a condition where the bottom muscle of the esophagus is not able to relax properly.
Esophageal Cancer Diagnosis
There are following testing methods for diagnosing esophageal cancer:
- Endoscopy: In this method, a device is used with a camera attached to it. The doctor inserts this camera down the throat to view the lining of esophagus to check abnormalities.
- Barium Swallow: A barium swallow is an X-Ray imaging test. In this test, the doctors are allowed to check the lining of esophagus. In this experiment, you have to swallow a chemical called as barium t
- Biopsy: It is a process of removing a sample of suspicious tissue from the esophagus. The tissue is examined in labs for accurate results.
- CT Scan/ PET Scan: CT Scan, PET Scan, and MRI are used to see if cancer has also spread to the other parts of the body.
Treatment of Esophagus Cancer
Treatment options and recommendations depend on several factors, including the type and stage of cancer, the patient’s preferences, overall health and possible side effects. The following treatments are recommended in case of esophagus cancer:
- Surgery: Surgery is only performed if cancer has not spread to other parts of the body. Here, the doctor removes the tumor using the endoscope and several small incisions. If the case is severe then the top portion of the stomach can also be removed.
- Chemotherapy: In chemotherapy, drugs are used to attack the cancerous cells. But it can also have some side effects like hair loss, vomiting, pain etc.
- Radiation Therapy: Here, beam of radiations are used to kill the cancer cells. It can be administered internally or externally.
- Targeted Therapy: In this kind of treatment, the doctor can target specific proteins on cancer cells.
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 esophagus.
- Pain: Advanced esophageal cancer can cause pain.
- Bleeding in esophagus: Esophageal cancer can cause bleeding. Though bleeding is usually gradual, it can be sudden and severe at times.
Prevention of Esophageal Cancer
You can take these following steps to reduce your risk of esophageal cancer:
- Quit smoking and drinking: Consumption of alcohol and tobacco can be a cause of cancer so its always better to quit them. Medications and counseling are available to help you quit.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables: Add a variety of fresh fruits and healthy vegetables to your diet.
- Maintain a healthy weight: If you are overweight or obese, talk to your doctor about strategies to help you lose weight.
Some Facts About Esophageal Cancer
- Esophageal cancer is more likely to develop in men than in women.
- It is most common in African- Americans.
- The chances of having it increase with age. People above the age of 45 are more likely to develop esophageal cancer.
Before you get esophageal cancer, you will be diagnosed with Barrett's esophagus, a precancerous condition that increases risk of esophageal cancer caused by chronic acid reflux. In this case, one should ask their doctor about the signs and symptoms to look for that may help to identity early symptoms of cancer. Book an appointment with us at +918268260808 for reliable cancer doctors and hospitals.
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