What You Need To Know About Esophageal Cancer: Symptoms & Treatment


ID-10054717According to the National Cancer Institute roughly 18,170 new cases of esophageal cancer will occur this year, with 15,450 of total esophageal cancer patients dying from the illness. Chances are these numbers are slightly higher than most people would expect when considering cancer of the esophagus. At San Francisco Gastroenterology, we’ve chosen to focus on this particular cancer in order to educate our patient’s on its symptoms, the role the condition Barrett’s Esophagus plays in the development of the cancer, and what treatment options are available after diagnosis.

Symptoms of Esophageal Cancer

Unfortunately, symptoms of esophageal cancer are very similar to other symptoms a person might experience if they have a cold or if they are feeling generally unwell. Though, it’s important to note that these symptoms should be taken seriously if they persist and remain for a period of time.

  • If you experience pain while swallowing food/drink
  • If it is difficult for you to swallow food/drink, this condition is known as “dysphasia”
  • Sudden, and even rapid weight loss that is unexplained
  • Persistent heartburn
  • If you find that food often gets “stuck” in your throat easily
  • If your voice is hoarse causing you to cough (more than two weeks)

Barett’s Esophagus and Esophageal Cancer

Barett’s esophagus occurs when cells in the lower part of a person’s esophagus actually change and become similar to cells found in the lining of the stomach. It is believed that this condition is caused when the stomach is repeatedly exposed to acidic foods – such as those individuals who have acid reflux disease that is long term. Having Barrett’s esophagus can increase a person’s chance of developing esophageal cancer. Of course, it is not a guarantee that this will occur.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

In order to determine if your symptoms are due to esophageal cancer or if it there is another condition causing issues, your doctor will likely perform a series of physical exams, blood tests, and ask you about your personal and familial medical history. If called for, your doctor may also ask that you perform a Barium swallow, also known as an upper GI series in which the patient is asked to drink a barium solution and later have x-rays taken of the esophagus and stomach. An endoscopy is another test your doctor may use – for a complete outline of this procedure, please read our blog post: Bay Area Endoscopy.

Once a diagnosis is made, esophageal cancer can be treated in the following ways:

  • Surgery to remove the cancer
  • Chemotherapy and/or radiation treatments
  • Treatments for potential complications from the cancer

If you have any questions or concerns about esophageal cancer, your symptoms, or your risk factor, we invite you to contact the specialists at San Francisco Gastroenterology who will be happy to discuss these points during a scheduled visit. 

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