Esophageal cancer is said to occur when malignant cancer cells develop in the esophagus / gullet or food pipe of a person – a tube that runs from the mouth to the stomach helping us swallow food. Cancer of the esophagus generally begins at the cells that line the inside of the esophagus. This is called squamous cell carcinoma. At other times cancer cells appear in the cells that make and release mucous and fluids during chewing and swallowing. This is called adenocarcinoma.
1. What are the symptoms I am likely to experience besides the difficulty of swallowing and the unexplained loss of weight I am currently going through?
Symptoms vary as per the size, stage, location and spread of the cancer. However, you may experience any or a combination of any of the symptoms, besides the ones you may already have:
• Chest pain or back pain
• Heartburn / indigestion
• Hoarseness of voice
• Upward movement of food from the tube to the mouth
• Coughing – may be accompanied by blood
• Aspiration pneumonia
2. What could be the cause(s) of my esophageal cancer?
Though causes of esophageal cancer are not known, however, presence of certain conditions increase a person’s risk of developing esophageal cancer and include any or a combination of any of the following:
• Smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke
• Excessive intake of alcohol
• Diet heavy on processed meats and low on fresh vegetables and fruits
• Being 65 years and older
• Being male
• Mutating genes
• Celiac disease
• Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
• Achalasia (Esophageal Motility Disorder)
• Human papillomavirus
• Plummer-Vinson syndrome (Anemia and Esophageal webbing)
• Corrosive injury to esophagus
• Tylosis and Howel-Evans syndrome (Hereditary thickening of the skin of the palms and soles).
• Barrett Esophagus (caused by chronic acid reflux)
• Radiation therapy for other conditions in the mediastinum.
• Thermal injury as a result of drinking hot beverages
3. Are there any side effects I am likely to experience due to treatment procedures?