Cancer » Esophageal Cancer
Esophageal cancer is one of the severest forms of cancer as it originates primarily in the esophagus. Esophagus is a tube-like organ connecting the throat and stomach and it performs the important function of carrying food. Esophagus passes the swallowed food to the stomach for digestion. If this organ gets infected by the cancerous cells, the whole digestive system may collapse and the consequences can be severe. Hence, it becomes very important to understand about this disease in detail.
About the cancer
Esophageal cancer develops mostly in the inner part of the esophagus. The cancerous cells develop in the organ's inner lining and then spread to other areas depending upon the intensity of the disease. The cancerous cells originate in the inner layers of the esophagus and attack the healthy tissues present therein. This creates obstruction in the normal functioning of the tissues and thus, affects the overall cell-growth pattern. The main function of tissues is to ensure proper and consistent supply of blood and oxygen to various parts of the body and create an environment conducive for proper cell development. Hence, invading the tissues influences the overall growth mechanism severely.
The cancerous cells not only invade the tissues but also kill and replace the live cells. The affected area tends to develop excess number of cells unnecessarily and prevents the old cells from dying normally. This creates a lump or group of unwanted cells and a tumor is formed. The tumor also spreads to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or lymph nodes and increases the intensity of the infection.
Esophageal cancer can be of two different types manifested as squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. Squamous cell carcinoma mainly originates in the cell lining on the surface of the esophagus and mostly develops in its upper or middle areas. It is also known as epidermoid carcinoma. Adenocarcinoma develops mostly in the lower areas of the esophagus and originates in the cells forming the glands.
The tumors formed in this cancer can be benign or malignant. Benign tumors are less destructive and are not aggressive towards the adjacent tissues and cells. They restrict themselves to a particular area and do not spread to other parts of the body. Also, they can be safely removed by surgery or any other available techniques and the chances of their recurrence is almost nil. Hence, they are not life threatening. The behavior of malignant cells is exactly opposite to that of the benign cells. They invade the healthy tissues, spread rapidly to other parts of the body and can even be fatal. They cannot be eliminated easily and the chance of their recurrence is much higher even if treated previously.
How to fight esophageal cancer?
The cancer is curable if detected in its initial stages. Age is an important factor in occurrence of the disease. The cancer is detected mostly in people above 50 years of age and hence a thorough medical examination is recommended for old people. Difficulty or pain in swallowing food must not be taken lightly as it may be an indication of tumor development in the esophagus. You must consult your physician immediately if you are having frequent problems in digesting food.
Men are more prone to the disease as compared to women. The disease is quite common in Asian and African nations but occurs rarely in the United States. Main cause of the disease is excess alcohol consumption, smoking and chewing tobacco as they damage the body internally. Smoking and alcohol can also affect your lungs, kidney, esophagus and the overall digestive system severely. A strong immunity system is necessary to fight the disease effectively. Unhygienic food and food high in fat content are not beneficial for health and may create problems in digestion. Regular consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables and salads is recommended. Obesity is one of the important causes of the disease. Hence, regular exercise can be advantageous. Those suffering from Human Papillomavirus (HPV) need to be extra careful.
Various types of cancers like the cancer of breast, lungs, prostate, bone or kidney may spread to the esophagus. Hence, you must be aware of the origin of cancer before opting for any medical treatment. People suffering from other abnormalities like the tylosis, achalasia, Barett's esophagus and gastroesophageal reflux disease are highly prone to the esophageal cancer.
Weight loss, fatigue, and chest pain are some of the important indications of the disease. Difficulty in swallowing solid food is also another important warning to visit your physician. Some may experience blood vomiting and sticking of foodstuff in the esophagus. All these conditions may or may not relate to the cancer but a thorough medical examination is recommended to find out the actual cause of the abnormality.
Esophageal cancer must be treated in time or it may prove fatal. Problems in digestion affect other vital organs like the heart, kidney and lungs simultaneously and hence timely medical check-up is extremely important. Endoscopy, computed tomography scan (CT scan), X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging scan (MRI scan), biopsy and laparoscopy are some of the common medical tests available. The cancer can be cured by chemotherapy, surgery or radiotherapy. Response to the above tests and treatments may vary form person to person and hence, there is no standard pattern of the line of treatment. You must be sure about the kind of treatment you will be undergoing. Also, ensure that your body can sustain the pains and side effects arising from the treatment as the damage can be irreversible.