What is oesophageal cancer?
The long tubular structure running from the back of the oral cavity to the stomach is the oesophagus, and cancer originating in the lining of the oesophagus is known as oesophageal cancer. The oesophagus carries food from the mouth down into the stomach, and thus what we eat is largely responsible for the development of oesophageal cancer. This form of cancer can occur anywhere in the oesophagus and is more prevalent amongst men compared to women.
Oesophageal cancer that develops in the mucus-secreting glands is known as adenocarcinoma, while the same in squamous cells is known as squamous cell carcinoma. Some of the other forms of oesophageal cancer include mall cell carcinoma, sarcoma, lymphoma, melanoma and choriocarcinoma.
What are the causes & risk factors of oesophageal cancer?
The exact cause of oesophageal cancer is yet undetermined but certain oesophageal mutations result in abnormal growth & multiplication of the oesophageal cells. Some of the common risk factors of this condition have been identified as:
- Pre-existing acid reflux disease
- Excessive smoking
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Bile reflux
- Limited fruits, vegetables & fibre in diet
- Radiation treatment for the upper body
What are the signs & symptoms of oesophageal cancer?
The common signs and symptoms for oesophageal cancer are enumerated below:
- Swallowing problems
- Unintended weight loss
- Chest pain and burning sensation
- Frequent indigestion
- Excessive cough
How can we prevent oesophageal cancer?
A healthy diet is the foremost preventive mechanism against oesophageal cancer. Also, reducing alcohol intake, quitting tobacco consumption & smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight. Thus, an overall healthy lifestyle is the best risk-mitigating mechanism against oesophageal cancer.
What are the treatment options for oesophageal cancer?
The treatment of oesophageal cancer is dependent on the type of oesophageal cancer – which determines the type of cells affected by the condition. In case, the tumor is very small and confined to the superficial layers of the oesophagus, the doctors may choose to perform an endoscopic procedure.
For larger tumors an esophagectomy – removal of a part of the oesophagus – is performed. This procedure requires the stomach to be pulled up to make for the shortfall in the remaining oesophagus.