Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month
According to the American Cancer Society, esophageal cancer affects approximately 17,000 people annually in the United States. The disease is commonly diagnosed in older adults, occurring four times as often in men than in women. Though rare (accounting for only 1% of cancers diagnosed in the U.S.), esophageal cancer is among one of the deadliest forms of cancer. This is largely due to the fact that it is too often caught in the late stages. Early detection is the key to a successful outcome. This starts by knowing the risk factors, and early signs and symptoms, associated with the disease.
What is Esophageal Cancer?
Esophageal cancer can develop anywhere along the length of the esophagus, a narrow muscular tube that transports food and liquid from the mouth to the stomach. There are two types of esophageal cancer: Adenocarcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Both are titled after the type of cells that grow into cancer.
• Adenocarcinoma is usually the result of ongoing reflux disease. This form of esophageal cancer is generally found near the lower part of the esophagus near the stomach. Adenocarcinoma is more common in the western world, and it is rapidly increasing in number of diagnoses.
• Squamous cell carcinoma is largely caused by heavy alcohol consumption and tobacco use. This form of esophageal cancer is generally found near the upper and middle part of the esophagus.
Risk Factors, Signs and Symptoms
Esophageal cancer doesn’t usually exhibit any signs or symptoms in the early stages. Knowing the risk factors is key in early detection and prevention.
Risk factors include:
- Tobacco use
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Older Age
- Male Gender
- Barrett’s esophagus
- On-going acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Obesity – There is a strong correlation between countries with high rates of esophageal cancer and high rates of obesity.
Signs and symptoms may include:
- Painful or difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- Indigestion and heartburn
- Unexplained Weight loss
- Chest pain
- Hoarseness or coughing
Esophageal cancer is typically diagnosed after patients have experienced prolonged signs and symptoms. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or are concerned about risk factors that may affect you, contact your doctor.
At GastroIntestinal Specialists, A.M.C., our Board-Certified physicians treat multiple conditions and diseases affecting the GI tract from the esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, liver, pancreas and rectum, as well as cancer screenings. With over 150 years of combined experience, you can trust us to provide quality care with a gentle touch