Esophageal cancer: Symptoms and treatment

Esophageal cancer has often advanced so far by the time it is discovered that cure is no longer possible. By the time the first complaints arise, which are often swallowing complaints, the disease has often already progressed too far. There are still options to extend the lifespan and reduce the complaints caused by the tumor. In addition to swallowing problems, the main symptoms of esophageal cancer are weight loss, chest pain and vomiting blood or blood in the stool.

Factors that increase the risk of esophageal cancer

  • Smoking
  • Extensive alcohol consumption (the risk increases with smoking and excessive alcohol consumption at the same time)
  • Overweight
  • Eating few fruits and vegetables
  • Not much varied food
  • Barrett’s esophagus (complication of reflux, stomach acid attacks the cells.)

Esophageal cancer

Esophageal cancer is twice as common in men as in women and dark-colored people get it three times more often than white people. Esophageal cancer is often discovered late, because small growths cause few complaints.

The two most common types of esophageal cancer are;

  • Adenocarcinoma . Cancer of the glandular tissue at the bottom of the esophagus.
  • Squamous carcinoma . Develops in the flat, scaly cells that line the esophagus.

Complaints of esophageal cancer

  • Chestpain
  • Weight loss
  • Don’t feel like eating
  • Swallowing complaints
  • Fatigue and dizziness (due to blood loss)
  • Blood in vomit or stool

The first complaints that are noticed are usually swallowing complaints, by which time a large part of the esophagus has often already been affected.

Esophageal cancer research

In case of swallowing complaints, x-rays are often taken first. This is usually followed by a gastroscopy. This examines whether there is suspicious tissue or cancer present in the esophagus. Once cancer has been diagnosed, additional research is done;

  • blood test
  • CT-scan
  • Endo-ultrasound (An ultrasound device is inserted, sound waves display the condition of the esophageal wall on a television screen)

Esophageal cancer treatment

  • Surgical removal of the tumor ; Sometimes this leads to healing, usually it only prolongs life or reduces complaints. Unfortunately, the cancer often comes back.
  • Chemotherapy and/or radiation . The aim is to reduce the symptoms, shrink the tumor or kill cancer cells that have spread throughout the body.
  • Photodynamic therapy . Medicines that make cancer cells more sensitive to laser beams, making them easier to destroy.

In general, the prognosis of esophageal cancer is not good, but it does of course depend on how far the disease has progressed. It is best for the doctor to discuss this with the person in question.