April is esophageal cancer awareness month. There are nearly 20,000 Americans diagnosed with esophageal cancer each year. Approximately 1 in 125 men face a lifetime risk for esophageal cancer and 1 in 417 women risk developing this cancer.
The major risk factor for developing esophageal cancer is the development of Barrett’s esophagus. This occurs in patient’s with long-standing GERD otherwise known as acid reflux. For those individuals who have long standing acid reflux and might not choose to be treated or make the appropriate lifestyle changes, they may want to reconsider. Barrett’s esophagus develops after years of gastric acid content refluxes backwards and damaging the bottom third of the esophagus. Over time, the damaged tissue becomes dysplastic and becomes pre-malignant.
The first signs or symptoms of esophagus tumor or malignancy is the inability to swallow solid foods. One may develop dysphagia. This in medical terms is trouble swallowing. One might feel a choking sensation as though the food is not passing down the food pipe.
Esophageal cancer is diagnosed via imaging, and then an and upper endoscopy (EGD). A gastroenterologist performs this procedure and obtains a tissue sample to confirm the diagnosis. Once a diagnosis is established, one is usually referred to a thoracic surgeon and an oncologist to discuss treatment options and prognosis.
If you or a loved one is battling esophageal cancer, the Cancer Support Community offers variety of resources.
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