Cancer is the growth of abnormal cells that take over neighbouring cells and tissues and, at later stages, also spread to organs. When such cells start in the oesophagus, they cause oesophagus cancer.
Most common symptoms are:
- Pain/difficulty when swallowing
- Weight loss
- Pain behind the breastbone
- Hoarseness and cough
- Indigestion and heartburn
Every type of Cancer has risk factors, but they don’t tell us everything. Many people with one or more risk factors never get cancer, while others who get cancer may have had few or no known risk factors.
- Tobacco use
- Heavy alcohol use
- Barrett esophagus
- Older age
- Being male
It can be prevented to a certain extent by avoiding the risk factors.
Cancer has different stages, each depicted by a Roman numeral from 1 to 4 (I, II, III and IV). Stage I is the first stage where the tumor is still small while at Stage IV, the patient’s condition is said to be critical because the tumor has spread to other organs of the body. Hence, a cancer’s stage refers to the tumor’s size and extent of spread. This is the simplest form of staging.
In Oesophagus cancer, the stage depends on whether it is confined to the origin of the cancer (localized cancer, Stage I) or whether it has spread to other organs (metastatic cancer).
The stage decides the kind of treatment you need to get. The greater the stage number, the more complex the treatment.
Needless to say, if the cancer is detected while it is still in Stage I, survival rate is higher. The rate decreases progressively with the increase in stage. Stage III is considered critical, while stage IV is, more often than not, fatal.
Medicine is evolving everyday to meet these challenges and to keep you happy, healthy and alive!
The best bet is to pay attention to the signs and symptoms. Some tests may help detect the cancer at an early stage. These include:
- Physical exam and history
- Chest x-ray
- Barium swallow
Based on the type and stage of the cancer and other factors, primary treatment options include:
- Radiation therapy
- Targetted therapy
- Endoscopic treatments
Treatment is based on the type of tumor and other factors, and often more than one type of treatment is used. Discuss all of your treatment options as well as their possible side effects with your treatment team to help make the decision that best fits your needs.
If you have any of the symptoms, please do visit the doctor.