Esophageal Cancer - Its Types, Symptoms & Treatment
Esophageal cancer is a type of cancer that affects the esophagus, the muscular tube that carries food and liquids from the mouth to the stomach. It is a relatively rare form of cancer, but it can be serious and even life-threatening if left untreated. There are two main types of esophageal cancer: squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma.
Squamous cell carcinoma develops in the upper and middle part of the esophagus and is more common in men and people over the age of 60. Adenocarcinoma, on the other hand, develops in the lower part of the esophagus near the stomach and is more common in people who have a history of acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
It is important to be aware of the symptoms of esophageal cancer and to seek medical attention promptly if any symptoms are present. Early detection is key to improving the chances of a successful outcome. By making lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, and eating a healthy diet, individuals can reduce their risk of developing esophageal cancer.
What does esophagal cancer do to our body?
Esophageal cancer affects the esophagus, the muscular tube that connects the mouth to the stomach. As the cancer grows, it can interfere with the normal function of the esophagus and cause a variety of symptoms, including:
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- Weight loss
- Chest pain or pressure
- Coughing or hoarseness
- Regurgitation of food or blood
Cancer can also spread to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes, lungs, and liver, which can lead to further health complications. Treatment options for esophageal cancer may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of these treatments.
It's important to note that these symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, so it's important to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis if you're experiencing any of these symptoms. Early detection and treatment can improve the prognosis for esophageal cancer patients.
How Esophageal Cancer can be diagnosed?
Esophageal cancer can be diagnosed through various diagnostic tests, including:
Endoscopy: A flexible tube with a camera attached is inserted through the mouth to visualize the esophagus and take biopsy if needed.
Barium Swallow: The patient drinks a liquid that contains barium, which highlights the esophagus on X-ray images.
CT scan: A 3D image of the inside of the body is created using X-rays and computer technology.
PET scan: A type of imaging test that uses a small amount of radioactive material to help detect cancer cells.
Blood tests: To check for elevated levels of certain substances that may indicate cancer.
It's important to note that these tests are used to diagnose cancer, but a biopsy is needed to confirm the diagnosis. After it has been diagnosed that you have esophageal cancer, your doctor may advise you to undergo additional tests in order to ascertain whether or not the disease has progressed to your lymph nodes or to other parts of your body.
When surgery is done to treat esophageal cancer, there is a chance of serious problems, such as infection, bleeding, and leakage from the place where the remaining oesophagus is reattached to the stomach.
To remove your oesophagus, surgery can be done as an open procedure with big cuts or with special tools inserted through several small cuts in your skin (laparoscopically). How your surgery is done will depend on your specific situation and how your surgeon decides to handle it.
How is Esophageal Cancer can be treated?
Esophageal cancer is a serious condition that can be treated through a combination of surgical, radiation, and medical therapies. One of the most common surgical treatments for esophageal cancer is an esophagectomy, which involves removing the cancerous portion of the esophagus. The remaining healthy tissue is then reattached, allowing the patient to continue to eat and drink normally. In some cases, a portion of the stomach may be used to replace the removed section of the esophagus.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy beams to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. This treatment can be used alone or in combination with chemotherapy, which uses drugs to kill cancer cells. Endoscopic therapies, such as endoscopic mucosal resection, are minimally invasive procedures that use an endoscope to directly remove or destroy cancer cells in the esophagus. Photodynamic therapy is another minimally invasive option that uses a special light source and drugs to kill cancer cells.
Targeted therapy is a newer type of treatment that uses drugs to target specific genetic changes in cancer cells. This type of therapy has been found to be particularly effective in the treatment of esophageal cancer, as it targets the specific genetic changes that cause the cancer to grow and spread. In some cases, a combination of treatments may be used to achieve the best possible outcome for the patient.
It's important to discuss all treatment options with a medical professional to determine the best course of action for each individual case. The type of treatment used will depend on the stage and location of the cancer, as well as the patient's overall health. With the right treatment plan, many patients with esophageal cancer can experience a significant improvement in their quality of life.