Medical fraternity, the world over considers April as the month of Esophageal Cancer Awareness. In the US, esophageal cancer cases are on the rise. Estimates show that in 2019 there were 17650 cases, and by 2020 nearly 18440 cases will be reported. One percent of cancers diagnosed in the US are esophageal cancers.
The rise in the cases of Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) means more number of esophageal cancer cases. Proper awareness of esophageal cancer will help to understand the symptoms and risks of this disease. By this, the affected can get diagnosed and avail the best course of treatment at the earliest.
Esophageal cancer, like other types of cancer, develops when cells mutate, grow and divide abnormally. It can be seen as a tumour in the esophagus. From here, the cancerous cells can spread to any part of the body. In the US, more men are affected by esophageal cancer than women.
Noticeable symptoms of esophageal cancer include,
- Pain while swallowing solid foods
- Food coming back while swallowing
- Heartburn, and heavy chest
- Coughing or hoarseness
- Pain behind the breastbone
- Excessive (foamy mucus) salivation
- Drooling and spitting up undigested food
If you find any of these symptoms, consult your family doctor for expert advice and suggestions.
You need to understand that, not all throat pain is esophageal cancer. When you find difficulty in swallowing, and have a feeling of choking while eating, it may be a sign of a mild tumour in the esophagus. Over time, you may experience the inability to swallow even liquids.
Your family doctor usually performs a physical exam. The doctor prescribes diagnostic tests viz.
- Chest x-ray
- Endoscopic ultrasound and others
This will help your doctor to determine if you have esophageal cancer. If the doctor suspects cancer, then the case may be referred to as gastroenterologists, oncologists, surgeons and radiation oncologists.