Esophageal Cancer – Causes, Symptoms And Risk Factors

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Esophageal Cancer

According to a study, the American Cancer Society estimates that in 2020, there will be approximately 18,440 new esophageal cancer cases diagnosed out of which around 16,170 deaths will occur from esophageal cancer in the United States.

In the United States, the lifetime risk of getting esophageal cancer is about 1 in every 455 women and 1 in every 132 men.

Zantac (ranitidine) and Prilosec (omeprazole) are the most common drugs used for the treatment of esophagus cancer. They reduce the production of excess acid production in the stomach, allowing esophagus, gastroesophageal reflux disease-GERD, esophagitis, Zollinger-Ellison syndrome to heal.

Patients who used ranitidine, Zantac and diagnosed with stomach or esophagus cancer may qualify to file a Zantac cancer lawsuit against the manufacturers. Owing to the severity of such medical side-effects that many ranitidine cancer lawsuits are being filed.

What Is Esophageal Cancer?

Esophageal cancer belongs to a lethal tumor of the esophagus. It is more commonly known as a food pipe which is a tube that connects the stomach and the throat.

The Two Main Categories Of Esophageal Cancer

Adenocarcinoma

It is the most form of esophageal cancer which generally occurs in mucus-secreting glands due to the unusual changes in the glandular cell.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

These flat and thin cells arise in the upper and middle portion of the esophagus from cell lining. These cells are flat and thin.

Other Rarer Types Of Esophageal Cancer Include:

  • Small Cell Cancer
  • Sarcoma
  • Melanoma
  • Lymphoma
  • Choriocarcinoma

The prognosis, symptoms, and treatment of these are very similar for the main category of esophageal cancer.

Causes

Cancer is caused when normal cell growth gets out-of-control. The damage cells divide abnormally to form tumors in the form of masses of tissue or lumps beneath the skin.

As the tumor grows it may interfere with the normal body function. Some of them stay at one place without getting any bigger but there are some cells which can reach to the other vital organs of the body and affect the vital organs.

Symptoms

In the initial stages of esophageal cancer, people hardly experience any such symptoms. Most of the diagnoses occur when esophageal cancer has reached an advanced level.

The Symptoms May Include:

  • Acid Reflux: It can happen if cancer affects the middle and lower part of the esophagus which is connected to the stomach.
  • Pain & Discomfort: Etching occurs in the throat.
  • Voice Changes: The voice may become dry or hoarse. The vocal cords may lose its elasticity and flexibility.
  • Continuous Cough: When cough becomes more serious you may experience pain while swallowing. In some extreme cases, the individual may cough up blood.
  • Weight Loss: Dramatic weight loss may occur.
  • Vomiting: A person vomits just after a meal as the food gets stuck in the esophagus.
  • Dysphagia: This is usually the first noticeable symptom. In this, pushing food through the esophagus becomes harder as the tumor narrows its passage.

Risk Factors

There are certain factors which increase the risk of esophageal cancer. These include:

  • Diet: Not consuming enough high fiber rich fruits and vegetables increase the risk.
  • Barrett’s esophagus: It increases the risk of future malignancy.
  • HPV: HPV or Human papillomavirus is a contagious, sexually transmitted virus.
  • Age: It is a more common disease after 60 years of age.
  • Celiac Disease: Esophageal cancer may increase the risk of squamous cell carcinoma.
  • Achalasia: This is a type of esophageal motility disorder.
  • Alcohol & Smoking: Either or both of these increase the risk.
  • Long-term Exposure To Harmful Chemicals Or Irritants: These include silica dust, lye, exhaust fumes, metal dust, and soot.
  • Obesity: It is more common in people with obesity.
  • Sex: Males have a higher risk.
  • Radiation Therapy: When a doctor performs such treatment to the head or chest, it might increase the risk.
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): With the increase of acid reflux,  GERD can lead to Barrett’s esophagus.
  • Genetic Factors: Having a family member with this condition increases the risk.
  • Other Cancers: Those people who have had neck or head cancers in the past have a higher risk of getting esophageal cancer.

Conclusion

A doctor will perform some test to examine the person presenting symptoms of esophageal cancer for determining the right treatment. The test can vary according to the situation.

It may include

  • Barium swallow test 
  • Biopsy
  • Endoscopic ultrasound
  • Gastroscopy, or endoscopy
  • Other imaging scans