Esophageal cancer is also known in medical jargon as esophageal carcinoma. This is a malignant growth in the esophagus.
What is esophageal cancer?
Esophageal cancer is a rather rare form of cancer that mainly occurs in people over 60 years of age. Men are affected about three times as often as women.
The esophagus is the part of the body that carries food from the mouth to the abdomen. This is a strand of muscle and a fairly flexible organ. Esophageal cancer causes the esophagus to narrow more and more, which usually leads to problems with eating in the advanced stages of the disease. For definition of idiopathic interstitial pneumonia in English, please visit acronymmonster.com.
The esophagus is lined with a layer of mucus; the malignant tumor usually starts from this mucous membrane.
Excessive consumption of alcohol and cigarettes is believed to be the main cause of esophageal cancer. An unhealthy diet can also promote esophageal cancer; You should therefore avoid particularly high-fat food.
Anyone who constantly eats food that is too hot is particularly at risk of developing esophageal cancer. Finally, congenital malformations of the esophagus can eventually lead to esophageal cancer.
Patients suffering from what is known as reflux disease are also particularly at risk. In this case, stomach acid flows back unhindered into the esophagus, which naturally attacks and irritates it.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Due to the ability of the esophagus to stretch, clear symptoms only appear in the late stages of cancer. Esophageal cancer can manifest itself as problems with swallowing, often accompanied by pain and a non-specific feeling of pressure. Many sufferers describe the feeling as oppressive or constricting.
In addition, gagging and heartburn can occur, although these symptoms occur only intermittently or not at all in many patients. A clear sign is spasms in the area of the esophagus. These spasms come on suddenly and can radiate to the face and back.
If the tumor is localized in the area of the larynx, hoarseness and changes in voice color occur. Various general symptoms occur parallel to these complaints, which are localized in the vicinity of the esophagus. Possible signs include weight loss, loss of appetite and bleeding. It can also cause nausea and vomiting and other gastrointestinal problems.
Esophageal cancer develops insidiously and only causes clear symptoms later on, which then remain permanently or occur more frequently. As the disease progresses, there is loss of voice and ultimately metastasis, which is associated with other, sometimes life-threatening complications (such as organ failure or circulatory disorders ).
Diagnosis & History
Esophageal cancer is an insidious disease that usually only shows symptoms at a late stage. If these finally occur, it is a feeling of pressure in the neck area; sometimes pain in the back can also occur. These are usually much lower when consuming liquid food such as soups or porridge.
Hoarseness and a sudden unexplained weight loss are other symptoms that can show up as the disease progresses. In the far advanced stage, swallowing problems and the associated problems with eating occur.
The diagnosis of esophageal cancer can usually be made with the help of an esophageal reflection, the so-called endoscopy. During this therapy, various tissue samples are taken and then examined in the laboratory. In this examination, the patient has to swallow a tube, similar to gastroscopy.
With a bit of luck, the doctor treating you can remove the cancer during the endoscopy of the esophagus. However, in order to determine how far the cancer has already spread in the body, further tests are necessary, such as computed tomography.
Esophageal cancer can be associated with various complications. The condition is often associated with weight loss, which, if left untreated, leads to dehydration and nutritional deficiencies. The typical bleeding causes anemia and can thus increase the feeling of illness. Typically, sufferers suffer from severe fatigue and are generally less efficient.
Serious complications arise when falls or accidents occur due to physical and mental weakness. Apart from that, cancer also has an effect on the mental state. Patients often suffer from depressive moods and anxious thoughts, which increase in intensity if the course is unfavorable. Esophageal cancer treatment is not risk-free. In addition to infections, bleeding and wound healing disorders, an operation can also lead to injury to the vocal cord or esophagus.
Depending on the location of the tumor and the depth of the incision, this can result in loss of voice or permanent difficulty swallowing. Chemotherapy leads to hair loss and can also cause organ damage and cardiovascular problems. With radiation therapy, there is a risk of possible late reactions: discoloration of the skin, damage to the mucous membrane and the digestive tract, and permanent skin changes.
When should you go to the doctor?
If you have esophageal cancer, you should always see a doctor right away. The patient may die, so early diagnosis and treatment of the disease can always have a positive effect on the further course. The earlier the esophageal cancer is detected, the better the prognosis is usually. For this reason, a doctor should be consulted at the first sign of this disease.
The doctor should be consulted for esophageal cancer if the affected person suffers from difficulties and discomfort when swallowing, resulting in permanent pain. Severe heartburn or a strong urge to gag can also indicate this cancer and should always be examined by a doctor. In many cases, bleeding or a severe loss of weight indicate esophageal cancer and should also be examined by a doctor. In the further course, those affected usually suffer from organ disease and die from this.
If esophageal cancer is suspected, a general practitioner or an internist can be consulted. Further treatment depends heavily on the exact characteristics of this complaint.
Treatment & Therapy
The treatment of esophageal cancer depends on how far it has progressed or what stage it is in. Patients in whom the tumor can be completely removed in one operation have the best chance of a complete cure.
This is a fairly large and not without risk intervention, after all, the chest and usually the abdomen must be opened. Now part of the esophagus is removed and then the stomach is pulled up a little and connected to the rest of the esophagus.
However, an operation alone is often not enough, and radiation or chemotherapy must also be administered. Especially if the tumor is too large, it usually cannot be surgically removed. In this case, radiation is initially used to shrink the tumor and make it operable.
Without prompt and appropriate treatment, esophageal cancer can quickly spread to other organs in the body, such as the trachea or bronchi. All patients in whom the cancer has not yet spread, i.e. where no metastases have occurred in neighboring organs, have the best chance of recovery.
In order to prevent esophageal cancer, the first thing to do is to adopt a healthy lifestyle. This includes abstaining from alcohol and cigarettes as well as a healthy lifestyle. Above all, nutrition plays a crucial role; At best, you should avoid too much fat . You should also avoid foods that contain nitrosamines as far as possible, as these are known to be carcinogenic.
The follow-up treatment follows the therapy of the esophagus carcinoma. One of the most important tasks of aftercare is to take action against concomitant and secondary diseases. In addition, it helps the patient to cope with physical, mental or social problems that arise from the disease or its treatment. It is also important to identify a possible relapse early and to treat it accordingly.
If the esophagus has been partially or even completely removed during surgery, various follow-up examinations are required, as this involves a significant intervention in the system of feeding. The examinations are carried out either by the general practitioner or in a clinic. Which and how many examinations are ultimately required depends on the patient’s individual state of health and the way in which he was previously treated.
As part of the follow-up examination, the doctor speaks to the patient and asks how they are feeling. The patient is also examined and his body weight is checked. Furthermore, examinations such as a sonography of the upper abdomen, laboratory examinations and X-rays of the lungs are possible. In addition, the remaining esophagus and the surgical site can be reflected.
Esophageal carcinoma follow-up care can take several years. Tests such as bone scintigraphy or computed tomography of the abdomen and thoracic region are recommended at intervals of 6 to 18 months.
You can do that yourself
The diagnosis of esophageal cancer always requires intensive medical treatment. Surgery and radiation as the means of choice leave no room for self-help when it comes to removing the tumor. Since esophageal cancer can also grow aggressively, those affected should not waste any time after diagnosis and seek specialist treatment.
There are no known home or herbal remedies that have been scientifically proven to make an esophageal tumor disappear. Alternative medical offers that promise healing should therefore be examined very critically and discussed with the doctor treating you. In principle, it is therefore not advisable to reject conventional medical therapies in the hope of self-help when esophageal cancer is diagnosed.
In everyday life, patients with esophageal cancer can still become active in the field of self-help in order to improve their quality of life. Many experience that not eating certain foods or stimulants reduces pain. Many health insurance companies and care bases also offer training courses on the subject of nutrition, which can impart valuable knowledge. Especially after an operation in which parts of the esophagus were removed, knowledge about special foods and forms of nutrition can also be very valuable for family caregivers.