The data claims that there were more than 16,000 new patients diagnosed with esophageal cancer in the year 2010 in the United States alone. In the same year there were more than 14,000 related deaths. The experts believe that one American citizen out of 200 will develop cancer of the esophagus at some point in his or her life. However, the situation is not that bad if the cancer is diagnosed in its early stages as there is more chance of it being treated then.
Esophageal Cancer Early Detection
Cancer of the esophagus has many types but there are two types that are seen a lot more often than any other type. These types are squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. Squamous cell carcinoma occurs in almost 50% of all patients diagnosed with esophageal cancer. This type forms in the cells located in the inside layer of the lining of the esophagus but it can be detected at any place along the esophagus. Adenocarcinoma develops in the gland cells and it is most often seen in the lower parts of the esophagus. A certain condition called Barrett’s esophagus is almost always present when this type of esophageal cancer develops.
All types of cancer have causes and risk factors. Risk factor is anything that increases the chance of developing cancer. Age is one of the risk factors that cannot be influenced. Those older than 65 years of age have a lot more chance of developing cancer of the esophagus.
Just like age, gender is another risk factor that a person cannot avoid. Both men and women can be diagnosed with esophageal cancer but men are three times more prone to it than women.
Heartburn is one of the factors that can be influenced. Those who suffer from chronic heartburn are more likely to develop esophageal cancer. Barrett’s esophagus can also increase the risk of this type of cancer but not everyone who suffers from this condition will develop it.
Tobacco consumption is famous for increasing the risk of various types of cancer and the situation is the same with esophageal cancer. The time someone uses tobacco seriously increases the risk of cancer. According to the data, over 50% of all squamous cell carcinomas are linked with the use of tobacco. Alcohol consumption contributes to the increase of risk of cancer but the situation is most severe if these two factors are combined. The combination of the two increases the risk of cancer much more than either of them alone.
Apart from these most often seen risk factors of esophageal cancer, there are those that do not occur as often. Some of these risk factors are being overweight, drinking very hot liquids on a daily basis and following a diet high in processed meat.
Prevention of esophageal cancer is still an open topic as the experts are not sure whether there is a way that will prevent the development of this type of cancer. However, there are sure ways of lowering the risk of cancer. Those who smoke should stop doing so. Limiting the consumption of alcohol is another sure way of lowering the risk of cancer of the esophagus. Diet plays a vital part in reduction of risk of cancer. A diet high in fruits and vegetables is of great significance. Making sure that the weigh remains normal is essential as well and the best way to achieve that is to exercise regularly.
Scans for Esophageal Cancer with X-ray
Early detection can be a difference between treating cancer and the cancer being the cause of death. The situation is the same with every type of cancer. Early detection will not only increase the chance of survival but will allow more treatment options to be used. One of the main problems of esophageal cancer is that the first signs often remain unseen until the disease has advanced. Due to this fact looking out for the symptoms of esophageal cancer is vital. Some of the most often seen signs include difficulty or pain when swallowing, weight loss, pain in chest, coughing, hoarseness and heartburn.
In order to make a proper diagnosis, the doctor will look at the symptoms and medical history of the patient and perform a physical exam. Often blood tests and an X-ray are ordered as well.
Barium swallow X-ray is one of the tests that are used most often for the diagnosis of cancer of the esophagus. The liquid that the patient drank will coat the esophagus and it will be seen clearly on an X-ray.
Endoscopy is used for this purpose as well and so is a biopsy. Apart from these, other tests like a CT scan and a PET scan are performed as well.
The treatment plan for esophagus cancer is in most patients the same. The stage of the cancer and overall health of the patient will determine them. Surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy are possible options for cancer of the esophagus.