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Esophageal Cancer Diagnosis & Treatment

It can be easy to forget the importance of the esophagus in everyday life. This muscular tube is not only responsible for helping us to process our food, but is essential in completing simple functions like swallowing.

The formation of a cancerous tumor within the esophagus can cause a range of problematic symptoms. Fortunately, the specialists at Northwest Medical Specialties have many years of experience in effectively treating many of these symptoms as well as esophageal cancer.

Causes and Risk Factors of Esophageal Cancer

Like most cancers, esophageal cancer is caused by mutated cell growth. These cells may begin in one area of the body, but also have the possibility of spreading to other regions, which is called metastasization.

Esophageal cancer is considerably prevalent worldwide, though certain geographic locations show a higher case rate than others. This form of cancer is often seen in both Asia and Africa, but is less common within the United States. Of course, anyone in the world still has the potential to develop esophageal cancer during their lifetime.

What Increases Your Risk?

There is no way to guarantee whether or not a particular person will encounter cancer of the esophagus, though a majority of patients with this condition possess one or more of the following attributes or lifestyle habits:

  • A history of using, or current use of tobacco products
  • A prior diagnosis of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Are 55 years of age or older
  • Have family members who developed esophageal cancer
  • Regular consumption of alcohol
  • A lack of sufficient fruits and vegetables in their diet
  • Are obese
  • Precancerous cells of the esophagus (Barrett’s esophagus)
  • Received radiation treatment to the chest
  • An existing case of HPV
  • Are male
  • Have celiac disease
  • Dysfunction of the esophageal sphincter (achalasia)

Obviously, not all of these influential factors are within a patient’s control. While you may not be able to do anything about your age or genetic makeup, there are certainly other ways to lower your risk for esophageal cancer.

Common Symptoms of Esophageal Cancer

Being aware of your potential risk for cancer of the esophagus can also help to increase your awareness of early signs and symptoms. It is always best to catch a case of esophageal cancer as soon as possible in order to improve your odds of beating the disease, making diagnosis a crucial piece to this complicated puzzle.

Since esophageal cancer results in the growth of a tumor within the esophagus, it is extremely common for individuals to experience increased difficulty while trying to consume various foods and beverages due to partial blockage of the esophagus. This typically results in problems with swallowing that may feel as though you are straining to push food down into the stomach. Other symptoms that are frequently associated with esophageal cancer include:

  • Changes in vocal tone or pitch
  • Recurring acid reflux
  • Vomiting
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Hiccups
  • Chest pain, or other generalized pain of the throat
  • Chronic coughing, which may even lead to bleeding of the esophagus

By thoroughly explaining any abnormal symptoms to your specialist, you can begin the process to diagnose and determine staging of the cancer. A definitive diagnosis is typically reached after your provider completes an endoscopy and/or biopsy of the esophagus. Once diagnostic testing has been performed and a case is identified, you and your physician will be able to explore the variety of treatment options available to our patients in the south puget area, and select the one that is best for you.

Treatment for Esophageal Cancer

In addition to determining which type and stage of esophageal a particular patient is in, it is also critical that our specialists consider the state of the person’s health before recommending any considerable treatment options. The existence of other medical conditions, plus the age of the patient, are both able to have a significant impact on the person’s ability to tolerate certain courses of treatment.

Chemotherapy and Radiation

These noninvasive options may be used either separately, or in combination with one another. Chemotherapy involves administering specially designed medications (usually by way of an oral pill or intravenously) that work to target and destroy any cancer cells within the body. Radiation is another common type of treatment that uses high-energy rays to eliminate these same types of cancerous cells.

Surgery for Esophageal Cancer

Patients may also elect for more aggressive solutions to surgically treat their cancer. At Northwest Medical Specialties, we offer the following surgical treatments for esophageal cancer:

  • Esophagectomy
  • Esophagogastrectomy

Our providers also offer interventional assistance to help relieve symptoms of esophageal cancer, such as placing a stent within the esophagus to relieve issues of pressure and blockage from food.

Questions? Ask Our Specialists

If you believe you are experiencing symptoms of esophageal cancer, or would like to discuss your treatment options with a specialist, please contact Northwest Medical Specialties today to schedule a consultation!