By Dr. Anil Kamath, Oncology,
What is Esophageal cancer?
Esophageal cancer, as the name suggests, takes place in the esophagus. Esophagus is the hollow long tube which goes up to the stomach from your throat, and helps in carrying the food from the back of the throat to the stomach for digestion.
Esophageal cancer occurs when malicious tumors are formed in the lining of your esophagus. This type of cancer is more commonly observed among men than in women.
Symptoms to lookout for!
The most common symptoms of esophageal cancer are-
- Indigestion- discomfort or pain in the upper abdomen
- Dysphagia- difficulty in swallowing food
- Heartburn- burning pain or sensation behind the breastbones
- Chest pain- keen stabbing pain in the chest
- Unintentional loss of weight- poor nutrition and inability to eat properly, resultig in loss of body weight
- Vomiting and fatigue
- Chronic coughs- usually lasting for 8 weeks or more
If you ever encounter the above mentioned signs and symptoms, make sure you consult a doctor right away. There are medical procedures to help treat cancer after a proper diagnosis.
How can esophageal cancer be treated?
Once you’re diagnosed with esophageal cancer, the standard treatment procedure involves- chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery or targeted therapy.
- Chemotherapy- A standardized chemotherapy treatment uses a single or a combination of anti-cancer drugs to prevent the cancer from recurring. These are either carried directly in your bloodstream or targeted to particular cancer sites.
- Radiotherapy- During radiation therapy, powerful beams of X-rays are directed to destroy the cancer cells and reduce large tumors before performing a surgery so that they can easily be removed. It also helps reduce the symptoms of esophageal cancer.
- Surgery- If you’ve been diagnosed with esophageal cancer in the early stage, your doctor will most likely recommend a minimally invasive approach to surgery. The surgeon makes a large incision to have a portion of the esophagus and the surrounding lymph nodes removed, sometimes the upper layer of the stomach may also be removed. The esophagus is then reconnected with a tissue from the large intestine or stomach.
- Targeted therapy- Targeted therapy is directed towards specific proteins on the cancer cells in order to cure the disease. Trastuzumab, a monoclonal antibody that targets the HER2 protein on the cancer cells, is used to treat a small portion of this type of cancer.
Cancer treatments can be very strenuous and expensive, so the best way to fight cancer is to prevent it from the very beginning. Get yourself diagnosed as soon as you come across these symptoms because esophageal cancer can certainly be cured if treated at an early stage.