Cancer of the esophagus and its symptoms
Oesophageal cancer is a malignant tumor of the esophagus, a tube that connects the throat (pharynx) with the stomach. Oesophageal cancer is rare and more common in Asia and parts of Africa than in Western Europe and North America.
In developed countries most cases occur in individuals over 55 years of age. Initial symptoms include difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia). Unfortunately most cases are diagnosed at an advanced stage of cancer. For this reason treatment is very demanding with a low percentage of success for complete cure. Modern therapy however may slow its progression.
What are the risk factors for esophageal cancer
- gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
- precancerous changes in esophageal cells (Barrett’s esophagus)
- drinking alcohol
- frequent drinking of hot drinks
- insufficient consumption of fruit and vegetables
- undergoing radiation treatment of the chest or upper abdomen
What are the symptoms of oesophageal cancer?
Oesophageal cancer is slowly growing and is usually confirmed in advanced stages as none of the symptoms listed below may occur in the early stages. Symptoms of esophageal cancer may include:
- pain or difficulty in swallowing
- vomiting of blood
- black or bloody stools
- unexplained fatigue
- feeling sucking during swallowing
- discomfort in the upper abdomen, especially when eating
- weight loss
Treatment of cancer of the esophagus
Treatment of oesophageal cancer depends on the results of the tests and on the overall health condition. In many cases, oesophageal cancer is so advanced that treatment options are limited. In these cases the physician considers the following palliative procedures:
- Placing a metal or plastic tube (stent) into the esophagus to allow the passage of food and fluids
- Radiation therapy
- Photodynamic therapy (the tissues are chemically sensitized and then internally treated with a focused light source)
- Expansion (cautious dilation) of the esophagus or laser destruction of the esophageal tumor
- Other palliative procedures (electrocoagulation, laser ablation)
The surgery involves removing the diseased part of the esophagus and linking the remaining part with the stomach (resection) and is accompanied by preoperative chemotherapy.
Prevention of esophageal cancer
Lifestyle factors such as poor nutrition, high body weight, tobacco smoking, and high alcohol consumption significantly increase the risk of esophageal cancer.
The immune system can help fight cancer
The immune system plays a key role in maintaining the integrity of the organism. In addition to protecting against pathogens it is strongly involved in the prevention of cancer, development and defense, which is why it needs to be constantly strengthened.