Esophageal Cancer : What It Means?
Cancer that forms in tissues lining the esophagus (the muscular tube through which food passes from the throat to the stomach). Two types of esophageal cancer are squamous cell carcinoma (cancer that begins in flat cells lining the esophagus) and adenocarcinoma (cancer that begins in cells that make and release mucus and other fluids). Esophageal cancer has been categorized into two types that include :
Adenocarcinoma : This type of esophageal cancer starts in the glandular tissue in the lower part of the esophagus. The stomach and the esophagus appear together in this lower part of esophagus.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma : Squamous cell carcinoma begins in the squamous cells lining the esophagus. This type of esophageal cancer typically occurs in the middle and upper part of the esophagus.
Early esophageal cancer usually does not cause symptoms. However, as the cancer grows, symptoms may include painful or difficulty in swallowing, weight loss and coughing up blood. Risk factors for developing esophageal cancer include:
- Heavy Drinking
- Damage from acid reflux
- Frequent choking while eating
- Chest burning, pain or pressure
Stages of Esophageal Cancer
If the diagnosis is esophageal cancer, the doctor needs to learn the stage (or extent) of disease. Staging is a careful attempt to find out whether the cancer has spread and, if so, to what parts of the body. Knowing the stage of the disease helps the doctor plan treatment. Listed below are descriptions of the four stages of esophageal cancer.
- Stage I. The cancer is found only in the top layers of cells lining the esophagus.
- Stage II. The cancer involves deeper layers of the lining of the esophagus, or it has spread to nearby lymph nodes. The cancer has not spread to other parts of the body.
- Stage III. The cancer has invaded more deeply into the wall of the esophagus or has spread to tissues or lymph nodes near the esophagus. It has not spread to other parts of the body.
- Stage IV. The cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Esophageal cancer can spread almost anywhere in the body, including the liver, lungs, brain, and bones.
Treatment and Diagnosis:
Diagnosing Esophageal Cancer
To help find the cause of symptoms, the doctor evaluates a person’s medical history and performs a physical exam. The doctor usually orders a chest x-ray and other diagnostic tests. These tests may include the following:
A barium swallow (also called an esophagram) is a series of x-rays of the esophagus. The patient drinks a liquid containing barium, which coats the inside of the esophagus. The barium makes any changes in the shape of the esophagus show up on the x-rays.
Esophagoscopy (also called endoscopy) is an examination of the inside of the esophagus using a thin lighted tube called an endoscope. An anesthetic (substance that causes loss of feeling or awareness) is usually used during this procedure. If an abnormal area is found, the doctor can collect cells and tissue through the endoscope for examination under a microscope. This is called a biopsy. A biopsy can show cancer, tissue changes that may lead to cancer, or other conditions.
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