UNDERSTANDING ESOPHAGEAL CANCER
An esophageal cancer results from the growth of malignant (cancer) cells within the tissues of the esophagus
The esophagus is an organ that connects the throat to the stomach. The esophagus is responsible for moving food from the back of your throat to your stomach to be digested. Esophageal cancer occurs in the esophagus. In most cases, esophageal cancer develops in the cells lining the interior of the esophagus. Esophageal cancer is more common in men than in women. In the world, esophageal cancer is the sixth most common cause of death from cancer.
SYMPTOMS OF ESOPHAGEAL CANCER
HOW TO DIAGNOSE?
In this study, you swallow the barium-containing liquid and undergo X-rays. X-rays show any changes in the tissue due to the barium coating inside your esophagus.
Endoscopy involves passing a flexible tube equipped with a camera (video endoscope) down your throat and into your esophagus. In order to detect cancer or areas of irritation in your esophagus, your doctor uses an endoscope.
A biopsy may be performed by inserting a special scope down your throat into your esophagus (endoscope). To detect cancer cells, tissue samples are sent to a laboratory.
Following a confirmed diagnosis of esophageal cancer, your doctor may recommend additional tests to determine whether your cancer has spread to other parts of your body.
Tests may include:
- Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS)
- Computerized tomography (CT)
- Positron emission tomography (PET)
- The removal of small tumors through surgery: Cancer that is very small, confined to the superficial layers of your esophagus, and has not spread may be removed along with the margins of healthy tissue surrounding it by your surgeon. In order to perform surgery on your esophagus, an endoscope is passed down your throat.
- Esophagectomy: Surgery to remove the esophagus and a portion of the upper part of the stomach, along with nearby lymph nodes, is called an esophagectomy. As a result, your stomach is reconnected with the remaining esophagus. A stomach-to-esophagus connection is usually made by pulling the stomach up.
- Esophagogastrostomy: An esophagogastrostomy involves removing part of your esophagus, nearby lymph nodes, and a large part of your stomach. Your stomach is then pulled up and reattached to your esophagus. To join the two, part of your colon may be used if necessary.
- Eliminating esophageal obstruction. In the case of narrowing of the esophagus due to esophageal cancer, a surgeon may place a metal tube (stent) to maintain its openness. Aside from surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, laser therapy, and photodynamic therapy, there are other options as well.
- Nutritional support. A feeding tube may be recommended if you have trouble swallowing or if you have surgery on your esophagus. Nutrition is delivered directly to your stomach or small intestine through a feeding tube, giving your esophagus time to heal.
As a form of cancer treatment, chemotherapy uses chemicals to kill cancerous cells. People with esophageal cancer usually receive chemotherapy drugs either before or after surgery. Combined chemotherapy and radiation therapy are also options. For patients with advanced esophageal cancer, chemotherapy may be used alone to relieve signs and symptoms.
X-rays and protons are used in radiation therapy to kill cancer cells. An external beam of radiation is typically delivered by a machine outside your body. Another option is to place radiation inside your body near cancer (brachytherapy).
The goal of immunotherapy is to boost the immune system’s ability to fight cancer. Cancer cells may not be recognized as dangerous by the immune system because they produce proteins that prevent the immune system from attacking them, and immunotherapy interferes with that process. Cancers of the esophagus that have advanced, returned, or spread to other body parts may be treated with immunotherapy.