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Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer is not the most known of cancers, but nevertheless it is quite widely spread. After diagnosis, most of the time surgery is applied together with radiation and chemotherapy. There are a lot of official and scientific sources you can rely on, and you can find them on the net. Getting the news that someone close to you has been diagnosed with cancer can be very scary. Not every type of cancer has a definite cause, but there are some types of cancers that develop because of lifestyle factors, like smoking and alcohol use. Esophageal cancer is one of these types of cancer that could possibly be avoided with a few simple healthy choices. However, tobacco and alcohol use aren’t the only risk factors for developing this cancer. As people get older the risk increases as it does for other types of cancer as well.  Other contributing factors include exposure to caustic irritants that have cause permanent damage, and medical history of Barrett’s esophagus, caused by long term irritation from gastric reflux, or the diagnosis of past head and neck cancers, which greatly increases the chance of developing another cancer in this area, including esophageal cancer.

The symptoms of esophageal cancer may not be present until the disease has advanced significantly, which is why most patients find themselves facing treatment decision rather quickly. The most common symptoms are difficult or painful swallowing, hoarseness or chronic cough, vomiting, hemoptysis (coughing up blood), severe weight loss, pain in the throat or back, and behind the breastbone or between the shoulder blades. Diagnostic tests are ordered to confirm the diagnosis of esophageal cancer, which usually include a barium swallow and an endoscopy. These studies can be performed on an outpatient basis and usually do not require hospitalization. The barium swallow is a relatively comfortable procedure, where the patient drinks liquid containing barium to coat the inside of the esophagus, and then x-rays are taken to look for any abnormalities. The endoscopy is a procedure performed by the physician using a lighted tube to examine the esophagus, and any questionable areas can be collected for biopsy at this time.

After the diagnosis of esophageal cancer has been confirmed, treatment is started immediately, but depends on a number of factors, including size and location of the tumor, and general health of the patient. Surgery is usually the most common treatment recommended, in addition to a combination of chemotherapy and radiation first, which is used to shrink the tumor before surgery. For more information about esophageal cancer statistics, prevention, screening, symptoms, treatment, clinical trials, and ongoing research visit the United States National Library of Medicine at, the Mayo Clinic at, or the National Cancer Institute at, all very excellent resources on this topic.

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