Esophageal Cancer: Overview, Symptoms & Causes
Esophageal cancer is cancer that affects the esophagus with different subtypes of cancer included in this definition such as squamous cell cancer and adenocarcinoma.
Squamous Cell Cancer is a type of esophageal cancer that begins in the upper part of the esophagus whereas adenocarcinoma begins in the glandular cells at the connection of the esophagus and stomach.
As with many cancers, the exact cause is not known; however, research has shown various risk factors that are present in individuals that develop esophageal cancer. Even though these risk factors do not mean that all individuals will develop esophageal cancer it only means that, the chances are higher than individuals without these risk factors present.
The following is a list of risk factors that contribute to individuals developing esophageal cancer.
Individuals over the age of 60 are at a higher risk of developing esophageal cancer
Esophageal cancer is not as common in women as it is in men.
Individuals that are severely overweight increase their risk of esophageal cancer.
Those that use any type of tobacco such as chewing tobacco and cigarettes are at a higher risk of developing esophageal cancer.
Individuals that are heavy drinkers or chronic drinkers are at a higher risk.
Irritations such as the long-term irritation known as Barrett’s Esophagus, gastric reflux, swallowing such substances like lye can increase the risk of developing esophageal cancer.
A person with head or neck cancer in their medical history has an increased risk of developing esophageal cancer.
Just because a person has one or more of these risk factors does not guarantee they will develop esophageal cancer, however, these things will increase the chances. The major contributor to esophageal cancer is tobacco and alcohol use. The best way to prevent esophageal cancer is to stop using tobacco products and only drink in moderation.
If you have any of the risk factors, it would be in your best interest to pay attention to your own health and watch for symptoms. The symptoms of esophageal cancer include difficulty swallowing, painful swallowing, extreme weight loss, pain in the throat, pain in the back between the shoulder blades, chronic cough, hoarseness, vomiting, and coughing up blood.
On the other hand, these symptoms could be a sign of a variety of illnesses and diseases. You should talk with your physician about your concerns for developing esophageal cancer. If you do smoke or drink heavily then it would be in your best interest to quit.
As with most cancers, preventive measures as well as early diagnosis has a lot to with the results of the treatments that are available for patients with esophageal cancer.