What is Esophageal cancer? Information from the National Cancer Institute
Esophageal cancer occurs when cells of the esophagus, or the tube connecting the mouth and stomach, divide uncontrollably. Common symptoms include painful swallowing, weight loss, cough, heartburn, and pain behind the breast bone. To diagnose esophageal cancer, a chest x-ray, barium swallow, biopsy, or endoscopy may be used. If the cancer is detected early enough, the tumor may be surgically removed. Most cases or esophageal cancer are caught in the advanced stage, making it difficult to cure. However, in these cases, patients are given treatment to decrease the symptoms of the cancer and improve quality of life. Read more at the National Cancer Institute.
Information on Esophageal Cancer from MD Anderson Cancer Center
According to the American Cancer Society, about 16,470 Americans will be diagnosed with esophageal cancer, and about 14,280 deaths will result from the disease, which affects men three to four times more often than women and 50% more African Americans than Caucasians. Populations in certain regions of the world experience a much higher incidence of esophageal cancer than those in the United States. Read more at MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Information on Esophageal Cancer from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons
Read more at the Society of Thoracic Surgeons website.
What is the Relationship Between Acid Reflux and Esophageal Cancer?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may lead to a condition called Barrett's esophagus, in which the lining of the esophagus changes into tissue that looks similar to the small intestine. Barrett's esophagus occurs most commonly in patients that experience severe reflux at an early age or have lived with the condition for a long period of time. Fortunately, only 1 in 200 patients with Barrett's esophagus will develop esophageal cancer each year. Read more at the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.
Podcast: Recent Advances in Esophageal Cancer Treatment
Traditional treatment of esophageal cancer requires the removal of the tumor and esophagus surrounding it. The remaining esophagus is then rejoined to the stomach. Alternatives to this treatment are emerging. New radiation technology allows radioactive particles to be aimed directly at the tumor, rather than a general area of the esophagus. As a result, less healthy tissue is damaged. Another option is to forgo surgery and use only chemotherapy and radiation to treat the cancer. The most appropriate treatment plan should be decided by the physician and patient working together. Listen to the podcast at the MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Video: A Survivor Story of Esophageal Cancer
Many people diagnosed with esophageal cancer are surprised to learn they have the disease. This was true in the case of Sue Firth, a patient at MD Anderson Cancer Center, who had lived a healthy lifestyle and lacked any of the traditional risk factors for the esophageal cancer. Watch Sue and her physician discuss her diagnosis, treatment, and recovery in a video from the MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Esophageal Cancer
Patients are not routinely screened for esophageal cancer, unless they exhibit significant risk factors for the disease. Among these risk factors are heavy alcohol or tobacco use and the condition Barrett's esophagus. Esophageal cancer is curable if caught in the early stages by removing the affected segment of the esophagus. In more advanced cancers, a stent can be placed to prevent the esophagus from narrowing further. View the major recommendations at the National Guideline Clearinghouse.
Treatment Options for Esophageal Cancer Based on Stage Classification
When esophageal cancer is diagnosed, the doctors will perform a CT scan or ultrasound of to determine the severity of the cancer. If a tumor is too large to be safely removed with surgery, a course of chemotherapy may be used to shrink the tumor before attempting surgical removal of the diseased tissue. If the cancer is found to be advanced, or the patient refuses surgery, the treatment plan will aim to reduce the symptoms. View the major recommendations at the National Guideline Clearinghouse.
Brachytherapy is the practice of treating cancer by implanting devices carrying radioisotopes close to the treatment site. Radiation therapy is often used to reduce the size of an esophageal tumor to a size manageable by surgery. Brachytherapy requires careful monitoring of the patient, physicians, and other care staff for radiation exposure. View the major recommendations at the National Guideline Clearinghouse.
Abstract: Estrogen May Protect Women From Esophageal Cancer
Approximately 400,000 people in the world die of esophageal cancer each year, making this disease the sixth deadliest cancer. Men are much more likely to be diagnosed with esophageal cancer than women. The reason for this discrepancy is unknown, but one theory claims estrogen production in females is protective. Abstract available at Pubmed.
Abstract: Evaluating the Treatment Options for Esophageal Cancer
Surgical removal of tumors is a mainstay treatment for esophageal cancer. However, the surgery carries a relatively high risk of complications. Some patients may opt for no surgical treatment, such chemotherapy and radiation. The skill of the surgeon performing the operation greatly affects the outcome for the patient, so individuals contemplating surgery should weight the pros and cons of each treatment option. Free full text available at Pubmed.
Abstract: Surgical Removal of Esophageal Cancer is Effective in Elderly Patients
Surgical removal of esophageal cancer is a routine procedure. However, it was unknown whether the outcome for elderly patients was equivalent to young patients undergoing the operation. New research finds that patient outcomes following surgical removal of esophageal cancer is equivalent in elderly and younger patients. Free full text available at Pubmed.
Abstract: Minimizing Damage Due to Surgical Removal of Esophageal Cancer
Surgical removal of esophageal cancer is commonly performed. However, the surgery carries the risk of spreading the cancer to neighboring lymph nodes. Less invasive approaches, such as endoscopic surgery, may decrease the potential for cancer spreading as a result of surgery. In addition, new procedures allow physicians to precisely locate which lymph nodes are most likely to harbor cancer that has spread, thereby minimizing damage from the surgery. Free full text available at Pubmed.
Abstract: Biology and Demographics of Esophageal Cancer
The number of new cases of esophageal cancer worldwide is increasing every year. Furthermore, the predominant type of esophageal cancer is shifting to a new form. Research has shown the increase in gastrointestinal esophageal reflux disease may be a potential explanation. Free full text available at Pubmed.
Abstract: Barrett's Esophagus is a Precursor to Esophageal Cancer
Barrett's esophagus refers to the presence of precancerous cells lining the surface of the esophagus. Individuals with Barrett's esophagus are at increased risk of developing esophageal cancer. The underlying cause of Barrett's esophagus is severe gastro-esophageal reflux disease, so management of the condition may lower an individual's risk of developing cancer. Free full text available at Pubmed.
Abstract: Treating Advanced Esophageal Cancer
The majority of esophageal cancers are diagnosed in an advanced stage. For these patients, treatment aims to improve quality of life and survival time, rather than provide a cure. Brachytherapy and metal stents are both safe and effective options. Abstract available at Pubmed.
Abstract: Coping with an Esophageal Cancer Diagnosis
Diagnosis with Esophageal Cancer can be physically and emotionally difficult for an individual. For many patients, a cure is unlikely. A support network is essential to aid these patients as they cope with the reality of their diagnosis. Abstract available at Pubmed.
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