Esophageal Cancer

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Esophageal Cancer Signs and Symptoms

Esophageal cancer symptoms become progressively worse as tumor size increases. Initially, a patient may not notice esophageal cancer symptoms at all, as the tumors are too small to cause problems. As tumors grow, esophageal cancer symptoms appear.

Initial Symptoms

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Feelings of fullness
  • Pressure and burning as food travels down the esophagus
  • The sensation of having a piece of food stuck behind the breastbone
  • Coughing and Hoarseness

Esophageal cancer symptoms manifested through difficulty swallowing may come and go, generally growing worse each time they return. Esophageal cancer symptoms such as heartburn, indigestion, and vomiting lead to weight loss, as discomfort affects eating habits.

Proper Diagnosis of Esophageal Cancer 

Many of the various esophageal cancer symptoms mimic symptoms of other disorders, so it is important to have the disease properly diagnosed. Esophageal cancer symptoms are generally investigated by a gastroenterologist, a doctor specializing in digestive tract diseases. Diagnosis of esophageal cancer symptoms is usually conducted through an x-ray method known as the barium swallow. Analysis of esophageal cancer symptoms may also be accomplished using a thin, lighted tube known as an esophagoscope. Properly diagnosing esophageal cancer symptoms is critical to ensuring patients' chances for survival.

Esophageal Cancer Treatment

Esophageal cancer treatment is determined by the staging, or progression the cancer has made. Proper diagnosis is crucial to esophageal cancer treatment. Once a proper diagnosis has been obtained, most patients will undergo one of three esophageal cancer treatments: surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. If the cancer is caught early enough, esophageal cancer treatment can cure it. Otherwise, controlling the disease or relieving symptoms is the goal of esophageal cancer treatment.

• Surgery 

The most commonly used form of esophageal cancer treatment is surgery. In early stage tumors, surgery will usually result in a cure. Generally, this esophageal cancer treatment requires removal of the affected portion of the esophagus, with a reconnection sometimes using tubing. Esophageal cancer treatment using surgery sometimes cannot remove a tumor blockage, so a bypass will be created, allowing esophageal cancer treatment in the form of radiation or chemotherapy to shrink the tumor.

• Radiation Therapy 

Radiation used in esophageal cancer treatment serves to shrink the tumor by damaging the cancer cells. Like surgery, this form of esophageal cancer treatment is localized; it affects cells only in the treated area. Radiation alone is an esophageal cancer treatment, but it can also be used in conjunction with surgery.

• Chemotherapy 

Chemotherapy is another form of esophageal cancer treatment that can be performed independently of or in conjunction with other methods of esophageal cancer treatment. Chemotherapy uses strong doses of drugs to kill cancer cells. Unlike surgery and radiation esophageal cancer treatments, chemotherapy is systemic: drugs travel throughout the body and often attack non-cancer cells. Therefore, esophageal cancer treatment utilizing chemotherapy often involves alternating periods of treatment and rest.

Once the doctor makes an accurate diagnosis, esophageal cancer treatment can begin. Esophageal cancer is only curable if caught early, and diagnosis is difficult. Esophageal cancer treatment is therefore only as effective as the doctor's diagnosis and swift action.

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