Esophageal cancer

Read in Hindi

Cancerous growth in esophagus leads to esophageal cancer. Such growth occurs in the inner lining of the organ. The primary cause of such type of cancer is mutation of the DNA in esophageal cells. But there are certain risk factors which increases the probability of getting such disease. Treatment procedure mainly depends on the stage of tumour (severity of tumour). The small tumour can be successfully removed by surgery. In later stages, surgical removal of esophagus is recommended. Apart from these, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are the two main options for the treatment of esophageal cancer.

Also Read

Causes

According to Dr. J.B. Sharma, Senior Consultant, Medical Oncology, Delhi based Action Cancer Hospital, 'Esophageal cancer occurs when cells in the oesophagus develop mutations in their DNA, making the cells grow and divide out of control. While the exact causes of esophageal cancer are not known, certain factors such as drinking alcohol and very hot liquids, obesity, smoking, radiation therapy to chest or upper abdomen and low fruit/vegetable intake can exacerbate the risk of developing esophageal cancer.'

Risk Factors

Apart from the above listed factors, there are certain medical conditions that also raise the risk factor for esophageal cancer. These are -


  • Bile reflux/gastro-esophageal reflux

  • Achalasia (difficulty in swallowing due to restricted sphincter)

  • Barrett’s oesophagus (precancerous changes in the esophageal cells)

Symptoms

Some of the common symptoms of esophageal cancer are -


  • Difficulty in swallowing

  • Indigestion

  • Weight loss

  • Chest pain

  • Cough

Diagnosis

Dr Sharma says, 'Usually, the diagnosis of esophageal cancer is done by endoscopy. In this, an endoscope is passed down the throat to allow the doctor to examine suspect areas. Whereas for biopsy, a special scope is used to extract suspicious tissue from the oesophagus.'

After confirmation of cancer by biopsy, your doctor might recommend few imaging tests to determine the stage of this cancer. This includes -


  • CT scan

  • MRI

  • PET scan

Treatment

Like most cancers, esophageal cancer can be treated in three ways – surgical, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. In surgical therapy, the cancerous cells or part of oesophagus and a portion of surrounding healthy tissues are removed. In

Surgery: In surgical therapy, the cancerous cells or part of oesophagus and a portion of surrounding healthy tissues are removed. In case of major surgery, the stomach is pulled up to reconnect it to the oesophagus.

Chemotherapy: This type of treatment includes use of drugs to kill the cancerous tissues whereas radiotherapy utilises concentrated radiation beamed upon the affected area to destroy the cancer cells; these two therapies may or may not be used together, depending upon the treating physician.

Radiotherapy: It utilises concentrated radiation beamed upon the affected area to destroy the cancer cells; these two therapies may or may not be used together, depending upon the treating physician.

'Apart from the conventional methods, new targeted drugs are also being developed to treat esophageal cancer. These drugs, when ingested, target specific proteins in the DNA of cancerous tissues to disable their growth, thereby controlling their spread. However, many of these drugs are still in testing phase' explains Dr Sharma.

Prevention

There are few precautionary steps that can reduce the risk of developing esophageal cancer. This include -


  • Quit smoking

  • limit the alcohol intake,

  • Consume more fruits and vegetables

  • Maintain a healthy weight


Following these measures markedly cuts down on the risk of esophageal cancer.

 

The content has been verified by Dr. J.B. Sharma, Senior Consultant, Medical Oncology, Delhi based Action Cancer Hospital.

Videos

Health Calculator

Photo Gallery