Esophageal cancer is mainly a dominant male cancer that has been on the increase lately worldwide. The two predominant subtypes of this cancer are Squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma, which vary geographically and by the racial distribution of the patients who have this cancer. Esophageal cancer affects the muscular tube that is responsible for transporting food from the mouth to the stomach. Esophageal cancer can develop in the lining of the esophagus and form a malignant tumor. The deep tissues of the esophageal are affected as the tumor keeps growing and expanding. The complications that this type of cancer can cause are that it could develop anywhere in the esophageal lining, and while the portion where the esophageal meets the stomach isn’t left out. Generally, this type of cancer begins when healthy cells in the esophagus grow out of control and form a solid mass called a tumor in the esophageal. Meanwhile, the tumor can either be cancerous or non-cancerous. It is often rare to see esophageal cancer contain at its development points as it often tends to spread to other parts of the body, including the brain.
If esophageal cancer spreads, it can spread through the esophageal wall, travel to the lymph nodes, and attack the chest blood vessels. Besides this, cancer often spreads to the lungs, stomach, liver, and other nearby body parts. The risk factor that contributes to the causes of esophageal cancer is the genomic instability, race and gender of the patient.
Several types of symptoms are associated with esophageal cancer, which might vary from one patient to another. However, not all the symptoms presented here result from esophageal cancer besides the tumor developed due to esophageal cancer can be challenging to detect. Medical experts often state that they find these tumors when trying to diagnose and test for other conditions in the patient’s health.
The medical problem associated with esophageal cancer does not have many symptoms easily associated with this condition. Here are some of the symptoms and possible signs of the esophageal cancer
Severe difficulty and pain while swallowing food such as meat, raw vegetables or bread. As the tumor grows, it continues to block the passage of food to the stomach, while liquid food can also become painful to swallow.
Increased burning and pressure in the chest can also be observed due to the pressure caused by the tumor. Meanwhile, you can also experience indigestion, heartburn, extreme constipation and lots more inconvenience with your digestive system. You can also be very susceptible to vomiting and frequent choking on food, and unexpected weight loss. In addition, you can experience coughing or hoarseness of your voice and some mild pain in the throat.
However, if you are worried about any of the above-listed signs and symptoms, you might need to consult with your doctor and explain the conditions in which your health has been. It is crucial that you adequately explain the conditions and how long you feel the awkward feeling in your throat. If after the doctor has examined you and cancer is diagnosed, then there would be a series of other tests to determine the nature of cancer and which type of treatment would be best for you. If you have felt any new symptoms, you must also share the information with your doctor. The following section would be focused on the type of esophageal cancer and what you need to know about it.
Mainly esophageal cancer is classified to be in two categories which are mostly referred to as squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. In addition, there is another type of esophageal cancer which is very rare, known as small cell carcinoma. These types of cancer also develop at different types of cells in the esophagus, while the unique way of development and treatment is quite different for each person.
This is the most common esophageal cancer that has been recorded in the United States. It is perceived to be the type of cancer that makes up more than half of the new esophageal Cancer cases recorded. This cancer mostly starts to develop in the lining of the esophagus glandular cells and gradually spreads to other parts of the body. The possibility of the cells grown in the esophagus is referred to as Barrett’s esophagus conditions. This type of cancer mainly occurs at the upper part of the stomach and the lower end of the esophagus. It has also been recorded and observed that this cancer condition occurs in middle-aged white men who are mostly overweight. However, the incidence of this disease has grown outside the United States since the 1970s. Doctors believed that the rise in these diseases might have been caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition where contents in the stomach move up to the esophagus repeatedly. These contents are acid and bile, which are known to cause severe inflammation in the esophagus. In recent studies and research results, it has been highlighted that treating acid reflux helps reduce the high risk of esophageal cancer in the body.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
This type of esophageal cancer is the second most common cancer type of the esophagus called squamous cell carcinoma. The uncontrollable growth of the flat cell lining inside the esophagus contributes to the cause of this type of cancer. Besides, esophageal Cancer is also linked to excessive smoking and alcohol content consumption.
Small Cell Carcinoma
This type of cancer is a rare type considered the third type of esophageal cancer. It is formed by the release of neuroendocrine cells, a type of cell that introduces hormones to the bloodstream.
Presently there are no clear-cut reasons as to what exactly causes esophageal cancer. However, it has been established that esophageal cancer occurs when the cells in the esophageal mutate and undergo rapid changes in their DNA. It then causes the cells to grow out of control. The accumulating cells form a tumor that invades the nearby organs in the body; if not controlled early enough, it continuously spreads to the other parts of the body. Besides, some risk factors are known to be contributory to the development of esophageal cancer in humans; these include
- The cell cancer that develops in the esophagus is related chiefly to smoke and smokeless tobacco products and alcohol use. When the two are used together, there is a very high risk of developing esophagus cancer.
- Adenocarcinoma is a disease related to gastro-esophageal reflux, which technically means the backwashes of acid from the stomach to the esophagus can cause severe inflammation. The metaplasia, an abnormal cell, then starts to grow in your esophagus. If the GERD isn’t attended to in time, the lining in the esophagus begins to change and accumulate abnormal cell growth. As a result, the esophagus begins to change its function and looks, which eventually causes a lot of damage and develops into cancer.
- Adenocarcinoma of the gastroesophageal junction also means that esophageal cancer can quickly develop at the lower part of the esophageal or the upper area of the stomach, which is very close to the GE junction.
- You should also know that smoking increases the risk of adenocarcinoma, while alcohol use doesn’t increase the risk.
- Some other risk factors that should be considered that can cause the significant type of esophagus cancer are esophageal burns, swallowing of acidic materials, for example, bleach, fungi infection, yeast infection, or the known HPV. Some certain unusual foods are known to contribute to esophageal cancer, especially in Asian diets.
- Dieting on scalding hot liquids and low in fruits and vegetables can increase esophageal cancer chances.
- Esophageal cancer seems to be an older trend of diseases that usually come after 65 and is more common in men than women.
- Also, you should be aware that some chromosome and gene abnormalities might be a risk factor to the cause of esophageal cancer.
- Meanwhile, esophageal adenocarcinoma of the gastro junction is becoming more rampant as well.
Before any treatment is started on any cancer patient, there is the need to understand the type of cancer and know the best approach for the treatment. Generally, the doctors have to discuss with you to understand your medical history and your overall health conditions. Then, a sample of the tumor might be taken and extracted for viewing under the microscope to determine the type of cells that made up the tumor mass. Due to the signs and symptoms of esophageal cancer, there is the possibility to suspect the type of cancer it is through diagnosis.
Besides, the doctors might also have to look through the tumor with ultrasound, MRI or CT scans. Indeed, getting the most accurate diagnosis is an essential step towards treating any cancer type. For example, the following are ways by which esophageal cancer can be diagnosed.
A biopsy is a method carried out by the doctor to help examine the tissues of the affected body part. Biopsies for esophageal cancer are mainly done using a thin, flexible, lighted tube that a medical doctor can use to inspect your esophagus. Before the inspection starts, you would be administered anesthetics to help you relax and calm your nerves while the doctor inserts the endoscope through your mouth, which helps the doctor to get a clearer picture of what is going on in your esophagus. Then, a small sample of the tissue can be extracted from the tumor formed to be appropriately diagnosed. Medical doctors who specialize in the treatment of esophageal cancer would then inspect the extracted cells under a microscope and perform other tests to know more about the tumor and cancer.
Another standardized test used to diagnose esophageal cancer is molecular diagnostics carried out by medical researchers. The research is mainly conducted to help find where the mutation and the tumor constituents are and what can be done to figure out the cause and the formation of the tumor.
Barium Swallow test
This is another way to help the doctor understand the problem and what type of esophageal cancer you are battling with as a patient. In this test, you would be instructed to perform a barium swallow test by swallowing a thick, chalky liquid barium substance that will coat the walls of your esophagus. This test can either be done independently or as a combination test with other test methods like x-ray known as upper gastrointestinal (GI) series. Generally, this barium swallow test can quickly help reveal any abnormalities in your esophagus and smoothens the esophagus lining. Also, this test is conducted to help understand how far the damage has gone and to what extent cancer has spread in your esophagus. The fantastic thing is that this test can also be used to detect even small and easy cancers which might look like round bumps or flat raised areas in the esophagus.
Meanwhile, a computed tomography (CT) scan can also be conducted to achieve details and cross-section images of your body, instead of using the x-ray to only take limited pictures. There are many other test methods used in diagnosing esophageal cancer.
Yes, treating esophageal cancer can be achievable only after the proper testing has been carried out on the patients. The treatment method for esophageal cancer is approached based on the individuality of each patient’s situation. Generally, patients’ overall health condition matters and the treatment method implemented depends on the stage and health of the patients. Therefore, the medical experts that are in charge of the patients would consult with the patients and the family members on the best treatment approach that is suitable for the specific situation the patients are in. The medical providers that are in charge primarily include the radiation oncologist, medical oncologist, and surgeons. More so, there is the need for primary health care providers and nutritionists.
Although patients who are older and have some underlying health condition might be very challenging to treat when it comes to esophageal cancer. Esophageal cancer is most often diagnosed late, and this is because the symptoms only occur when the tumor has grown and cancer has spread across the patient’s body. Here are some treatment methods that are employed to help patients recover from this type of cancer:
One of the most common means of treating and eradicating cancerous cells from the patient’s body is through surgery. The decision to make the patients undergo surgery is dependent on the type of esophageal cancer the individual is suffering from. Besides, the treatment guidelines and procedures are constantly evaluated and revised based on results from research and the development of new, improved treatment methods through different clinical trials. Surgery mainly involves removing the entire esophagus, which is then replaced by another bowel that connects the patient’s mouth to the stomach. However, if this isn’t possible, there could be an alternative way to place a tube through the patient’s skin, and then food is passed to the stomach through this tube.
This treatment uses an external beam of radiation that can be administered to help reduce the tumor size before surgery is performed on the patients. There are several protocols for the variety of chemotherapy, which must be considered based on the patient's needs. More so, there is an option of starting chemotherapy and radiation therapy after surgery has been performed.
In some circumstances, there are disease-specific genes that are known to cause esophageal cancer. In some situations, the extracted tumors are tested in the laboratory to understand if the tumor contains those genes. In addition, targeted medications can attach or bind to different protein sites on the tumor cells and inhibit tumor growth.
Meanwhile, some other treatment methods, such as Endoscopic treatments, Photodynamic therapy, and biopsies, are employed to treat esophageal cancer in patients.