A Tough Diagnosis to Swallow
Relatively rare in the U.S., esophageal cancer (cancer affecting the esophagus running from the throat to stomach) doesn't affect all people equally.
17,000 new cases per year in the U.S.
3-4x more common in men than women
1 in 125 men will be diagnosed in their lifetime in the U.S.
Early stage esophageal cancer often doesn't show symptoms, but when it does they may include:
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- Unexpected weight loss
- Chest pain, pressure or burning
- Worsening indigestion or heartburn
- Coughing or hoarseness
While a serious form of cancer, 5-year survival rates have quadrupled over the past several decades, with early detection key to a positive outcome.
Making healthy choices is the best prevention.
- Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Don't smoke
- Avoid drinking very hot liquids
- Drink alcohol in moderation or not at all
- Manage acid reflux and other throat irritants
Diagnosis and treatment
Individuals with risk factors such as obesity, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or Barrett's esophagus should get screened for esophageal cancer. Early detection allows for minimally invasive treatments that can preserve the esophagus.
- Endoscopy (inserting a camera into the throat) is a common diagnostic tool.
- Endoscopic surgery or ablation can remove small, early stage tumors via a small tube passed into the throat rather than an incision.
- Esophagectomy (removing part of the esophagus) or esophagogastrectomy (removing part of the esophagus and stomach) may be needed for more advanced cases.
- Chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy kill cancer cells and may be used along with or instead of surgery.
Source: MayoClinic.org; Cancer.org.