If you’re a frequent reader of our blog, you probably noticed that we devoted a lot of our attention last month to colon cancer because March was Colon Cancer Awareness Month. This month, we’ll be focusing on all things esophageal cancer because April is Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month.
Your esophagus is the muscular tube that connects your throat to your stomach. Cancer can develop in the tissue that lines the esophagus, and it typically develops in one of two forms – squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. Health statistics suggest that nearly 20,000 Americans will be diagnosed with esophageal cancer this year, and it is one of the deadliest forms of cancer, which is why early detection is so important.
Symptoms and Risk Factors of Esophageal Cancer
Symptoms of esophageal cancer include:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Painful swallowing
- Pain behind your sternum
- Chronic cough
- Unexpected weight loss
Aside from symptoms, it’s also worth noting which factors and lifestyle choices can increase your risk of developing esophageal cancer. Smoking and heavy alcohol consumption have both been associated with an increased likelihood of developing the condition. Some non-controllable factors that can also play a role in your risk include being male, being over the age of 50 and being African American.
Types And Treatment
As we noted above, there are two main types of esophageal cancer. Here’s a closer look at each.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma – This is a cancer that forms in the thin, flat squamous cells in the lining of your esophagus. Oftentimes it is found in the upper and middle portion of the esophagus. It is the most common type of esophageal cancer.
- Adenocarcinoma – Adenocarcinomas develop in the mucus-secreting cells in the esophagus. These glandular cells produce and release mucus to aid in the swallowing process. Cancer in these cells tends to develop near the lower part of your esophagus.
Treatment of any form of esophageal cancer begins with a diagnosis to determine the size and stage of the cancer. Treatment will vary based on the stage of your condition, but radiation therapy, chemotherapy and surgical removal of the tumor are all possibilities. Again, treatment success hinges on catching the condition in an early stage, so if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, or the condition runs in your family, set up a consultation with a specialist.
Dr. Bhatti and his team have all the tools to help find, diagnose and treat a variety of forms of esophageal cancer. Hopefully you never need us, but we’re here if you do. For questions or appointment inquiries, give our team a call today.