The muscular tube that carries food, into the stomach is called the esophagus. The length from the throat to the stomach is between 10 – 13 inches long, and less than an inch wide, at the narrowest point. According to the American Cancer Society, cancer of the esophagus begins in the innermost layers and grows out. Approximately 13,000 people a year are diagnosed with this type of cancer, and about the same number of people, will die of this cancer each year. Currently, there is no early detection for this type of cancer. Unfortunately, diagnosing esophagus cancer late, and within an advance state, has a high fatality rate. A Five Year survival rate has shown, thirteen percent for whites and nine percent for African-Americans. Compared to 40 years ago, same survival rate was four percent of whites, and one percent of African-Americans.
According to National Cancer Institute, there are two types of esophagus cancer. Squamous cell carcinomas tend to start, in the upper and middle part of the esophagus. In some cases, the cancer begins, in other areas of the esophagus. Other type of esophagus cancer is adenocarcinoma, first appears in the opening of the stomach and related to Barrett’s esophagus or “GERD,” resulting from acid reflux or stomach acid, spilling into the esophagus. This adversely affects the cells, in the esophagus. Approximately, thirty percent of esophageal cancer cases are linked to GERD.
Esophagus cancer is directly attributed to smoking or chewing tobacco products, long term alcohol use, swallowing chemicals such as lye or cleaning fluids (Dry cleaning workers have a higher rate of esophageal cancer), Achalasis (A medical condition, when food does not enter the stomach, and stays or backs up into the esophagus), rare genetic disease Tylosis (symptoms include excess skin on the palms of the hands and soles. By the age of 65, these patients have a 95 percent chance, developing carcinoma of the esophagus), and head and neck cancer patients, have a greater risk, developing this type of cancer. Also, overweight and obesity increase risk factors.
Symptoms maybe, attributed to esophagus cancer includes: Having difficulty swallowing, unexpected weight loss, pain in the back between the shoulder and mid-chest, hoarseness,
Coughing up blood and episodes of frequent hiccups. Test to validate this type of cancer, by swallowing barium, which coats the esophagus. Afterwards, X-ray taken of the esophagus, and observing for any abnormalities, to confirm or refute the presence of cancer. Also, a physician will use an endoscope, which examines inside of the esophagus, and take biopsies (Remove small sample of tissue to examine in the laboratory, under a microscope). If the cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body, referred to as staging. Depending on the stage of the disease, a plan of treatment is possible. Stages of esophageal cancer will range, from zero to five. Category five is the worst stage, and the cancer could spread to either the distant lymph nodes or other organs of the body.
Treatments for esophagus, cancer includes: Radiation, surgery, chemotherapy, and laser therapy. During laser surgery, aiming a laser beam of light at the cancer through an endoscope. This vaporizes and coagulates the cancerous tissue. Approximately, seventy – eighty percent of patients benefit from this procedure. However, this needs to be repeated every six to eight weeks. Another alternative surgery, implanting an esophageal metallic stent, which relieves difficulty to swallow, in more than 80 percent of treated patients. According to National Cancer Institute, most common treatment is surgery. Alternative medical choices are available, which includes: Acupuncture, massage, herbs or dietary supplements. When cancer can’t be removed, recommendation is Pallative treatment, which relieves the symptoms, of pain and allows patients the comfort to swallow. The treatment involves inserting a cylindric device through the obstruction, and ability to swallow. Relief usually lasts up to two weeks, and then requires additional treatment. During this procedure, there is a small risk of tearing a hole in the esophagus. Always, recommend getting a second opinion, and some insurance companies require that information, before starting any treatment.