The esophagus is a hollow muscular tube connecting the throat to the stomach. Esophageal cancer refers to the cancer that begins in the esophageal cells. It can occur in any part of the esophagus. The esophageal cells start growing out of control, forming a mass of cells that can spread to other parts.
Esophageal cancer is the sixth most common cancer in India. It occurs mostly in men than women.
Types of Esophageal Cancer
The common types of esophageal cancer are:
Adenocarcinoma, which occurs in the glandular cells of the esophagus, occurs mostly in the lower portion.
Squamous cell carcinoma occurs in the lining of the esophagus, mostly in the top and middle portion.
Symptoms of Esophageal Cancer
The common symptoms of esophageal cancer are:
- Weight loss
- Bleeding in the esophagus
- Difficulty and pain while swallowing
- Choking while eating
- Heartburn or gastric influx
- Fatigue or tiredness
- Burning in the chest
- Chest pain
- Chronic cough
- Pain behind the breastbone
If you experience any symptoms related to esophageal cancer, consult a physician. At HCG Manavata Cancer Center, we have the top esophageal cancer doctors in Nashik who can help you with the right treatment for your condition.
Causes of Esophageal Cancer
Several factors increase the risk of esophageal cancer:
- Increasing age (above the age of 45 years)
- Having a reflux disorder such as GERD or bile reflux
- Tobacco consumption
- Heavy alcoholism
- Being overweight or obese
- Not having a healthy diet
- Having achalasia (muscles at the bottom of the esophagus sphincter doesn’t relax)
- Having Barrett’s esophagus
- Having a personal or family history of esophageal cancer
- The habit of drinking very hot liquids
- Exposure to certain chemicals and radiations
Diagnosis of Esophageal Cancer
The following tests usually recommended for the diagnosis of esophageal cancer:
- Physical Examination: The doctor will physically examine the patient for the signs of esophageal cancer. The patient’s medical history will also be discussed.
- Barium Swallow Test: An imaging procedure that creates images of the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract using barium and X-rays.
- Imaging Tests: Imaging tests such as ultrasound, MRI scan, PET/CT scan, etc., are used to obtain detailed images of the esophageal tract that help in the diagnosis, determine the size and exact location of the tumor, plan treatment and monitor the treatment response.
- Biopsy: A small sample of the tumour is collected and examined under the microscope for the presence of cancer cells.
Treatment for Esophageal Cancer
HCG Manavata Cancer Center is one of the best esophageal cancer treatment hospitals in Nashik, Maharashtra, and houses advanced treatment facilities for the best management of esophageal cancers:
Surgery: The doctor removes the tumor, along with a small margin of nearby healthy tissue. Surgery is the preferred choice of treatment for early-stage esophageal cancer. The doctor may perform the following types of surgery for esophageal cancer:
- Thoracoscopic surgery helps in removing the cancerous cells and healthy tissue margins.
- Esophagectomy removes a part of the esophagus along with nearby lymph nodes.
- Esophagogastrectomy to remove the affected part of the esophagus, nearby lymph nodes, along with part of the stomach.
Chemotherapy: Anti-cancer drugs keep the cancerous cells from growing, multiplying, and spreading to other parts. It shrinks the tumors formed in esophagus and in other parts of the body. Chemotherapy is recommended both for curative purposes and to relieve the symptoms of esophageal cancer. It can be given intravenously or orally.
Immunotherapy: It stimulates the immune system to identify and attack the cancerous cells. Usually used for advanced-stage esophageal cancers and for cancers that come back after the treatment.
Targeted Drug Therapy: Specific proteins, genes, and environments that help the tumor grow and survive are targeted. The targeted therapies used for esophageal cancer are:
- HER2-targeted therapy works by blocking the specific proteins that support tumor growth.
- Anti-angiogenesis therapy works by blocking the making of new blood vessels that deliver nutrients to cancer cells.
Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy uses powerful radiation beams to treat the tumor. It destroys the cancerous cell by interfering with their division and killing them.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How can I prevent esophageal cancer?
Following measures can help you reduce your risk of developing esophageal cancer:
- You should avoid smoking and limit alcohol consumption.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight.
- Also, get screened by a doctor at the regular interval after the age of 45 years.
2. Will I be able to swallow the food after esophageal cancer is treated?
It depends on the type of treatment you have undergone. Patients with early-stage esophageal cancer will be able to return to normal life after some time. However, in the case of advanced-stage cancers, the entire esophagus may be removed, and a feeding tube may become necessary.
3. What are the side effects of treatment?
The side effects vary from person to person and are specific to the treatment used. Common complications associated with surgery are bleeding, infection, and discharge from the incision. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy, on the other hand, may cause nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, pain while swallowing, fatigue, etc.
Most of these complications are temporary and wear off over time.
4. What if esophageal cancer reoccurs?
There are chances that esophageal cancer may reoccur. The doctor may use the same method, a different method, or a combination of two or more methods to control and treat cancer. To catch recurrences early, patients must ensure to keep up their follow-up appointments after the treatment.
5. Is esophageal cancer hereditary?
A small percentage of esophageal cancers are found to be caused due to hereditary factors. In such cases, you should talk to your doctor for possible screening tests and measures that can help you reduce your cancer risk.