All You Need To Know About Esophageal Cancer
What Is The Esophageal Cancer?
The esophagus is a tube that runs behind your windpipe, between the heart and the spine, made of muscles that connect the throat to the stomach. It transfers food or anything you eat directly to the stomach in a unidirectional way.
Esophageal cancer typically occurs in the cells called ‘mucosa’ that line the inside of the esophagus anywhere along its length. The most common initial symptom of esophageal cancer is having trouble swallowing or feeling like the food you eat remains lodged in your throat. Though it might not be apparent initially, this condition aggravates gradually, and the cancer spread worsens over time. Since the esophagus is linked to the intestine and the liver, the esophageal cancer cells can travel to these organs and grow there, a process called ‘metastasis.’
Today, it is the sixth most common cause of cancer deaths worldwide, and it is estimated that four out of five patients who develop this condition are men.
Types of Esophageal Cancer:
Treating Esophageal cancers mainly depends on diagnosing their type. And the types are classified based on the cells that abnormally grow into cancer tumors. Such types of esophageal cancers are:
When cancer develops in the mucus-secreting glands in the lower portion of the esophagus, it is called adenocarcinoma. Most cases of esophageal cancers are adenocarcinoma, and the most commonly occur in men worldwide.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma:
When the thin, flat cells that line the esophagus’s surface known as squamous cells develop cancerous growth, it is termed as a squamous cell carcinoma. This type of cancer usually occurs in the upper and middle portions of the esophagus and most common in chain smokers or alcoholics.
Other Rare Types:
Additional forms of esophageal cancer that are rarely found include lymphoma, sarcoma, malignant melanoma, choriocarcinoma, small cell carcinoma, etc.
Common Symptoms Of Esophageal Cancer:
Esophageal cancer’s initial symptoms almost always include consistent pain and difficulty while swallowing foods, a condition known as dysphagia. Other than this condition, one might also experience:
Frequent chest pain, contractive pressure, or heartburns that don’t respond to OTC medications
Drastic weight loss without your efforts
Coughing or hoarseness in voice
Chocking on food while eating
Change in stool color which later becomes black, bright red, or like tar
Feeling full after eating little food.
Common Causes Of Esophageal Cancer:
Esophageal cancer can be caused by various physical disorders, such as:
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD):
Here, conditions like acidity, indigestion, or an unhealthy diet cause refluxes that push gastrointestinal acids and undigested food back up the esophagus to the throat.
It is a condition where the mucosal cells lining the lower portion of the esophagus undergo an abnormal (metaplastic) change. People with GERD are at higher risk of developing it.
This is a severe condition that affects the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a muscular ring that closes the esophagus and separates it from the stomach. Due to Achalasia, this LES fails to open up while swallowing food and causes reflux or choking.
Other indirect causes of esophageal cancer might include:
Heavy smoking and alcohol consumption
Being overweight and following an unhealthy diet
Being exposed to harmful radiations for treatments or during work
Genetic mutations in the DNA that lead to the formation of tumors in the esophagus