Esophagus Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options

Each year in the U.S., more than 18,000 people are diagnosed with esophageal cancer. While this cancer is more prevalent in men, it’s important for everyone to recognize the symptoms so it is treated in earlier stages. There are different treatments and survival rates depending on the stage a patient is diagnosed. You can learn more about the stages of esophagus cancer with an online search.

There are many ways you can lower your risk factor for developing esophagus factor. With a search online, you can find out which lifestyle choices are directly linked to this disease.

Here’s what you should know about esophagus cancer.

Signs and Symptoms of Esophagus Cancer

The esophagus is a long and hollow tube that runs from your throat down to your stomach, allowing food to be swallowed and digested. Cancer will usually begin in the cells lining the inside of the esophagus and can spread further within and outside the organ.

People may not experience symptoms until the cancer has become more advanced. Some symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty or pain when swallowing
  • Weight loss
  • Pain in the chest
  • Coughing
  • Hoarseness
  • Indigestion
  • Heartburn

If you’re experiencing persistent symptoms, get checked by a doctor. You should also be aware of the risk factors associated with cancer that may be relevant to your symptoms.

Causes and Risk Factors

Esophagus cancer is a highly preventable condition, though anyone can still experience it. Your chances of developing it can be greatly reduced by avoiding the major risk factors linked to the cancer.

Most cases of esophagus cancer occur in people over the age of 55. It’s more common in men than women, since around 77-percent of new cases each year are men. The lifetime risk of developing this cancer is one in 125 for men and one in 417 in women.

Tobacco is a major contributor to developing esophagus cancer. This includes smoking cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and chewing tobacco. The more you smoke, the more your risk increases. People who smoke more than at least a pack of cigarettes each day are twice as likely to be diagnosed.

Other factors that increase your risk for this cancer include:

  • Acid reflux
  • Alcohol
  • Barrett’s esophagus
  • Obesity
  • Frequently drinking hot liquids and consuming a high processed meat diet

If you’re experiencing symptoms of esophagus cancer and fall under one of the risk factors, you should see your doctor and get tested.

Diagnosing and Treatments for Esophagus Cancer

Doctors will ask about your medical history to find out if you fall under one of the risk factors. If one of your symptoms is trouble swallowing, you may be given a barium swallow test. This is a thick and chalky liquid that coats the walls of the esophagus and outlines it on x-rays. It can show abnormal areas of the esophagus.

Another way doctors can take a look at the esophagus and learn the extent of its spread is with an endoscopy. This is a tiny video camera with a light on the end that is used inside the body. The patient is sedated while the doctor puts the camera down their throat, and into the esophagus and stomach.

After being given different tests, scans, and possibly a biopsy, doctors will label a patient with a stage. This will determine what course of treatment the patient is given.

Here is some information about the five stages and how they are treated.

Stage 0:

  • Pre-cancer found in the inner layer of cells lining the esophagus, not yet grown into deeper layers
  • Often diagnosed when someone with Barrett’s esophagus has a routine biopsy
  • Treatments include photodynamic therapy, radiofrequency ablation, or endoscopic mucosal resection

Stage 1:

  • Cancer cells have grown into some deeper layers of the esophagus wall, but not yet reached the lymph nodes or other organs
  • Treatments might include removing part of the esophagus in surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation

Stage 2 and 3:

  • Cancer has grown into the main muscle layer of the esophagus into the connective tissue and nearby lymph nodes, organs, or tissues
  • Treatments usually include chemoradiation and surgery

Stage 4:

  • Cancer has spread to distant lymph nodes or to other organs
  • More difficult to get rid of cancer at this stage
  • Surgery is usually not an option. Treatment will focus on relieving symptoms and preventing the cancer from spreading further
  • Chemotherapy, targeted drug therapy, radiation, and immunotherapy may be performed

It’s always possible for cancer to recur after treatment. Patients with cancer that cannot be completely removed will be given treatments to make them more comfortable and improve their quality of life.

Learn More About Esophagus Cancer Online

Developments in medicine and treatments for patients with esophagus cancer has increased the survival rate over the years. About 20-percent of patients survive at least five years after diagnosis compared to only 5-percent back In the 1960s and 70s.

The best way to lower your risk of developing this cancer is by not smoking, eating a balanced diet, and lowering your alcohol intake. Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms and search online to learn more about esophagus cancer.

Chelsea Dolan

Chelsea Dolan

Chelsea is a staff writer for Qool Media. She does her best at balancing her sugar addiction by going to the gym, parking far away from store entrances, and standing at her work desk from time to time.