A malignant growth in oesophagus is one of the most common types of cancer in the world. Doctors call it oesophageal cancer. On early stages oesophageal cancer symptoms may be missing and occur only when the tumor starts to grow. Oesophageal cancer treatment usually includes a complex of measures to maximise the survival chances. Below we are going to discuss this condition its symptoms, treatment options and diagnostics services in more detail.
It occurs when cancer cells develop in the oesophagus. The cancer starts in the inner part of the oesophagus and can spread to the other parts of the oesophagus and to other parts of the body (metastasis). There are two main types of oesophageal cancer:
- Squamous cell carcinoma: Occurs when cancer starts in the flat, thin cells that line the oesophagus. This type normally appears in the top or middle of the oesophagus. However, it can appear anywhere. Squamous cells line the inner oesophagus and the cancer can develop anywhere along the entire oesophagus.
- Adenocarcinoma: This cancer develops from gland cells and can occur when cancer develops in the glandular cells of the oesophagus. This type normally appears in the lower portion of the oesophagus. When squamous cells are replaced by gland cells, it results in the development of adenocarcinoma.
OESOPHAGEAL CANCER SYMPTOMS
You probably won’t experience any signs and symptoms in the early stages of oesophageal cancer. As your cancer progresses, you may experience:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Difficulty and/or painful swallowing
- Frequent choking while eating
- Chest pain
OESOPHAGEAL CANCER TREATMENT OPTIONS
Surgery may be recommended if the cancer hasn’t spread to other parts of your body. Chemotherapy or radiation therapy may be recommended instead as the best course of action. They may also be used to shrink tumors in the oesophagus so that they can be easily removed with surgery.
- Surgery: Your surgeon can remove the tumor using an endoscope if the cancer hasn’t grown past the superficial layers of the oesophagus. A portion of the oesophagus and sometimes the lymph nodes around the cancer are removed in more serious cases. Tissue from the stomach or large intestine will be used to reconstruct the tube. In severe cases, a portion of the top of your stomach may be removed as well.The risks of surgery can include:
- Leaking (the area where the reconstruct tube is attached to the stomach)
- Chemotherapy: Drugs are used to attack cancer cells. It may be used before or after surgery. Sometimes, it may be accompanied by radiation therapy.There are several side effects. Most of which are related to the fact that the drugs also kill healthy cells. The side effects will vary depending on the drugs used. These side effects may include:
- Hair loss
- Radiation therapy: Beams of radiation are used to kill cancer cells. It may be administered externally with the use of a machine or internally with a device placed near the tumor (brachytherapy). Radiation is typically used with chemotherapy. The side effects are usually more severe when combined treatment is used. They include:
- Skin that looks sunburned
- Pain or difficulty when swallowing
- Painful ulcers (in the lining of the oesophagus)
Some patients may experience some side effects long after the treatment finishes. This includes oesophageal stricture – the tissue becomes less flexible. This can cause the oesophagus to narrow, making it painful and/or difficult to swallow.
DIAGNOSING OESOPHAGEAL CANCER
- History taking and physical exam: Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms, lifestyle and eating habits, as well as about your family history of medical conditions. Then he will perform a physical examination, which includes palpating your tummy area. All these is going to provide him a clearer picture of your condition.
- Gastroscopy (Upper endoscopy): This procedure can be used to visually examine the inside of your oesophagus and stomach. Your doctor will insert a thin, flexible tube equipped with a light and camera (endoscope) down your throat. A sample of tissue (biopsy) may be collected for further testing.
- Barium swallow: An X-ray imaging test that lets your doctor see the lining of your oesophagus. You will be required to swallow a chemical called barium while the images are being obtained.
- Biopsy: Your doctor removes a sample of the tissue with the help of an endoscope and sends it to be examined.
PREVENTING OESOPHAGEAL CANCER
Even though there is no definite way to prevent oesophageal cancer, you can take steps to lower the risk of the development of oesophageal cancer. They are:
- Avoiding cigarettes
- Avoiding chewing tobacco
- Limiting your consumption of alcohol
- Eating a diet with lots of fruits and vegetables
- Maintaining a healthy weight