Esophagus is a long pipe-like structure that interconnects an individual’s mouth to stomach. It serves as a medium for transporting food, water, and saliva to aid a normal digestion process. Esophageal cancer is a dreadful disease that emerges when abnormal cancerous cells and tissues start to grow inside esophagus. These harmful cells have a tendency to spread to other body parts which may result in weakening of entire body. Patients may die due to such health condition if appropriate steps are not taken on time. Therefore, an individual should seek a prompt diagnosis and treatment overcome esophageal cancer completely.
Causes and Risk Factors of Esophageal Cancer
There is no scientific evidence which can reveal what exactly leads to cancer of esophagus. However, healthcare experts state that abnormality or mutation in cells present in esophagus can give rise to esophageal cancer. In addition to this, the following risk factors may also increase the chances of esophageal cancer.
- Smoking – Smoking is the biggest risk factor associated with esophageal cancer. People who smoke a lot or are chain smokers are at an increased risk of getting esophageal cancer.
- GERD – Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder which occurs due to high acid level in stomach. People struggling with GERD from a prolonged period of time may get cancer of esophagus.
- Barrett’s Esophagus – Barrett’s esophagus is a condition that comes in existence when internal lining of esophagus gets deteriorated. People suffering from Barrett’s esophagus have higher chances of getting esophageal cancer.
- Obesity – Obesity can result in a large range of life-threatening diseases including cancer of esophagus. Therefore, people who are overweight should stay careful and try to maintain a normal body weight.
- Alcohol – Excessive alcohol consumption can damage inner layer of esophagus which may eventually promote formation of malignant cells and cause esophageal cancer.
- Lack of Balanced Diet – People who do not eat a balanced diet containing healthy vegetables and fruits are more prone to get cancer of esophagus.
Signs and Symptoms of Esophageal Cancer
The following points elaborate major signs and symptoms of esophageal cancer that can noticeably help a patient in early diagnosis.
- Swallowing Difficulty – People experiencing swallowing problems like dysphagia that causes pain in throat while eating may be an indication of esophageal cancer.
- Unintended Weight Loss – Unintentional loss of body weight is the primary sign of various cancers including esophageal cancer. People who have lost a noticeable amount of weight without any physical exercise or work should definitely seek a health opinion.
- Indigestion and Heartburn – A burning sensation in chest, bloating, nausea, and abdominal pain from a long time interval may signify an underlying condition of esophageal cancer.
- Coughing – It has been observed that sudden changes in voice tone and cough are mostly associated with esophageal cancer. Therefore, people experiencing symptoms such as persistent coughing or hoarseness in voice should visit a well-trained doctor for identifying its root cause.
Medical guidance can help diagnose and treat the precise condition. Therefore, patients should not ignore such signs and seek a medical care at the earliest.
Major Types of Esophageal Cancer
Esophageal cancer is mainly classified into the following two categories according to the types of malignant cells.
- Adenocarcinoma – Healthy gland cells are responsible for producing ‘mucus’ which protects esophageal passage and helps to keep body in a good condition. Adenocarcinoma mostly develops in lower portion of esophagus due to multiplication of abnormal and harmful gland cells.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma – This is the most common type of esophageal cancer which grows in upper portion of esophagus. It develops due to abnormality in squamous cells that are present in inner lining of esophagus.
Diagnosing Esophageal Cancer
Patients should look out for an experienced oncologist or cancer specialist for a successful diagnosis and treatment of esophageal cancer. Respective oncologists may start diagnosis by asking detailed medical history of patients. They may request them to disclose the symptoms which are currently bothering them and medicines they take for other health issues. They may order the below-mentioned tests to confirm their present medical status.
- Endoscopy – An endoscopy is an effective diagnostic test for esophageal cancer. It involves use of an instrument called as an ‘endoscope’ to precisely analyze the cells in esophagus. An endoscope is a thin and long tube-like device that has a camera on one end. Respective oncologists insert it in patient’s throat to reach esophagus. Camera captures the underlying situation which is displayed on a screen to help surgeons.
- Biopsy – Normally, a biopsy is performed following an endoscopy when surgeons suspect esophageal cancer. Biopsy is a procedure that involves removal of some amount of tissues from esophagus. These tissues are preserved carefully and sent to a laboratory for analysis.
- Imaging Tests – Oncologists may advise imaging tests such as magnetic resonance test (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT scan). These tests produce clear pictures of internal lining of esophagus and nearby structures which can significantly help surgeons in accurate diagnosis.
Esophageal Cancer Staging
Medical professionals have classified esophageal cancer into the following stages.
- Precancerous Stage – This stage marks the beginning of abnormality in healthy cells that are present in esophagus. These cells may grow into cancerous cells if proper treatment is not given to patients.
- Stage 1 – In this stage, cancerous cells begin to form and occupy outer lining of esophagus. Chances of successful treatment and recovery in this stage are considerably high.
- Stage 2 – In this stage, cancerous cells start to occupy a deeper portion of esophagus and may spread to surrounding lymph nodes.
- Stage 3 – This stage indicates that cancerous cells have completely spread in esophagus wall as well as surrounding regions.
- Stage 4 – This stage is most life-threatening and it occurs when cancer affects entire esophagus and other body parts as well.
Treatment Options for Esophageal Cancer
Treatment of esophageal cancer mainly depends on diagnosis report, stage of cancer, and overall health of patients.
- Treatments for Precancerous Stage – The following treatment options can help treat abnormality in esophagus and save patients from esophageal cancer.
- Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) – Photodynamic therapy uses powerful medications called as ‘photosensitive agents’ to wipe out abnormal cells from patient’s esophagus.
- Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) – RFA treatment is dependent on heat energy. Surgeons insert a probe in patient’s esophagus and heat is produced with the help of radio waves to kill abnormal cells present on surface of esophagus.
- Endoscopic Mucosal Resection (EMR) – Endoscopic mucosal resection is a medical procedure that involves use of an endoscope to reach patient’s esophagus and remove abnormal cells in a smooth manner.
- Treatments for Stage 1, 2, and 3 – Depending on patient’s requirements, respective oncologists may use any of the following treatment options for patients struggling with first, second, or third stage of cancer.
- Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is a mainstream procedure which can be utilized to treat esophageal cancer It involves use of strong medicines and drugs which are capable of killing cancerous tissues and cells present in esophagus and nearby affected lymph nodes and other areas.
- Radiation Therapy – This procedure is performed with the help of high-intensity radiation which destroys esophageal cancer Patients may be advised to undergo multiple sessions of radiation therapy to attain permanent relief. In some cases, oncologists may use chemo drugs along with radiation therapy for obtaining desired results.
- Esophageal Cancer Surgery – Surgeons may perform a surgery to remove only the affected cancerous area of esophagus and nearby lymph nodes. Sometimes, entire esophagus may be removed to treat severe cases. Oncologists will decide an appropriate surgical approach depending on patient’s health requirement.
- Treatments for Stage 4 – This stage of esophageal cancer is known as terminal stage. It becomes extremely hard to save a patient battling final stage of esophageal cancer. However, surgeons help patients by providing palliative care which includes medications, treatments, and an emotional support to help ease their painful symptoms.
Risks and Complications Associated with Esophageal Cancer Treatment
The following list describes complications that are involved in different types of esophageal cancer treatment.
- Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy – Patients may encounter complications such as diarrhea, nausea, hair loss, vomiting, mouth sores, and sharp abdominal pain following chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
- Endoscopic Mucosal Resection – It may cause complications such as internal bleeding or narrowing of esophagus.
- Radiofrequency Ablation – Patients may experience a burning and painful sensation in treated esophagus area for several days following this treatment.
- Photodynamic Therapy – It may result in complications like skin discoloration, red patches, infection, and extreme pain.
- Surgical Treatment – Surgical treatment for esophageal cancer may lead to complications such as clotting of blood, severe infection, serious intestinal issues, and even death of patients.
Patients should freely talk to doctors regarding possible solutions for minimizing such risks prior to their treatment.
Recovery Following Esophageal Cancer Treatment
Recovery mainly depends on the stage of esophageal cancer, type of treatment used, and patient’s overall condition. Oncologists may provide medicines to patients for overcoming pain and uneasiness following their treatment. They should strictly eat a healthy diet and avoid habits such as smoking and be drinking alcohol in postoperative time. Above all, patients should stay calm, attend follow-up sessions, and positively follow doctor’s instructions throughout their healing phase to get a speedy and successful recovery.
Avail High-Quality Esophageal Cancer Treatment in India with Travcure
Travcure Medical Tourism has marked a prominent place in group of excellent healthcare facilitators across the world. Team Travcure is associated with a wide network of highly experienced oncologists and top-class multi specialty hospitals in India that have a great success record of treating cancer patients. Esophageal cancer treatment cost in developed nations like New Zealand and Canada is extremely high which a common man cannot bear. This is why healthcare experts at Travcure make every effort to help international patients in terms of providing cost-effective as well as high-quality esophageal cancer treatment in India. Not just this, they also provide a free online consultation to patients before their treatment and stay in touch with them during recovery phase even when they return to their native countries. Therefore, overseas patients can confidently choose Travcure Medical Tourism to ensure best beneficial outcomes following esophageal cancer treatment in India
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