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Esophageal Cancer – Four Questions That Could Make All the Difference

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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:

• Fatigue
• Chest pain or back pain
• Heartburn / indigestion
• Hoarseness of voice
• Upward movement of food from the tube to the mouth
• Nausea
• Coughing – may be accompanied by blood
• Aspiration pneumonia
• Fever

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
• Obesity
• Mutating genes
• Heredity
• 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?
Yes, it is possible that you may experience one or more side effects while being treated and after you are cancer free. This depends upon the size, type and location of your tumor. However, the side effects last a few months before they disappear. I have listed below some of the commonly-reported side effects of laryngeal cancer treatment:

• Sore throat
• Mucous build-up in the throat
• Nausea after chemotherapy
• No sensation of taste
• Dry mouth
• Problems swallowing which can be overcome by consuming liquid or smooth semi-solid foods for awhile
• Lack of energy
• Feeling of something being in the throat after the treatment is over
• Change in voice
• Hormone imbalance requiring a hormone therapy

4. What is "staging" in esophageal cancer?
Staging is a process by which the depth, invasion and spread of the cancer cells is gauged. This helps in choosing the right treatment path for the patient. For esophageal cancer patients, the stages of cancer are:

Stage 0. The cancer is in the cells that line the esophagus. This is called carcinoma in situ.
Stage I. The cancer has moved to the next layer of cells in the esophagus.
Stage II. This could mean any of the following:
• The cancer has grown through the inner layers to the submucosa and spread to the lymph nodes (small glands which are a part of the immune system).
• Cancer has invaded the muscle layers of the esophagus.
• The cancer has grown through the outer layers of the esophagus.
Stage III. The cancer has spread beyond the esophagus and spread to the lymph nodes and could have invaded the nearby structures such as the airway passage, etc.
Stage IV. This is the most advanced stage. The cancer has spread to other organs in the body as well as to lymph nodes far from the esophagus. This is called distant carcinoma.

*Benefits, side effects, prior preparations, costs, duration of procedure, stay at the hospital, recovery and resumption of daily activities as well as support issues should be discussed with your doctor for each type of treatment option before starting on your treatment.


Mamta Singh is a published author of the books Migraines for the Informed Woman (Publisher: Rupa & Co.), the upcoming Rev Up Your Life! (Publisher: Hay House India) and Mentor Your Mind (Publisher: Sterling Publishers). She is also a seasoned business, creative and academic writer. She is a certified fitness instructor, personal trainer & sports nutritionist through IFA, Florida USA. Mamta is an NCFE-certified Holistic Health Therapist SAC Dip U.K. She is the lead writer and holds Expert Author status in many well-received health, fitness and nutrition sites. She runs her own popular blogs on migraines in women and holistic health. Mamta holds a double Master's Degree in Commerce and Business. She is a registered practitioner with the UN recognised Art of Living Foundation. Link: http://www.migrainingjenny.wordpress.com and http://www.footstrike.wordpress.com

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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