What is Cancer of the Oesophagus?
Cancer of the oesophagus is sometimes called Oesophageal Cancer. In the last 20 years or so the number of cases diagnosed each year has risen.
There are two main types :
Adenocarcinoma of the oesophagus. This occurs in about half of cases in the UK. This type arises from cells within mucus glands. This type mainly occurs in the lower third of the oesophagus
Squamous cell carcinoma of the oesophagus. This occurs in about half of cases in the UK. This type arises from cells which are on the inside lining of the oesophagus. This type mainly occurs in the upper two thirds of the oesophagus.The symptoms, treatment and outlook are similar for both of the these types.
Many of these symptoms can also be caused by conditions other than Oesophageal Cancer, but it is important that you report them to your doctor.
Difficulty in swallowing -This is the most common symptom of Oesophageal Cancer. There may be some pain in the form of a burning sensation when swallowing food, or you may feel that your food is sticking in your throat.
Weight loss - It may happen because you are having difficulty swallowing or discomfort when eating and this is putting you off your food. In some cases, extreme weight loss can be a sign of an advanced Cancer.
Pain or discomfort-In the throat or back / behind the breastbone, or between the shoulder blades.Acid indigestion -If you get a lot of acid indigestion, it could be due to a tumour in the oesophagus. A tumour by the valve (cardiac sphincter) between the stomach and oesophagus can stop it from working. This allows acid to track
back up into the oesophagus. Some people with Cancer of the Oesopha-gus have back or shoulder pain. Or you may have pain in the centre of your chest, which may be worse when you try to swallow or during attacks of indigestion.
Vomiting - If you are having difficulty getting your food down, it may just come back up again. This is really more like regurgitating food than actual vomiting. With Oesophageal Cancer, it is usually food that sticks and comes back up at first. But if left untreated, you may start to regurgitate drinks and even saliva.
Coughing up blood -Cancers sometimes bleed. If you are coughing up blood, or if there is blood in your vomit (or what you regurgitate), see your doctor immediately.
Hoarseness, or chronic cough -If you have a hoarse voice all the time, or a cough that won’t go away, it may be a warning sign of oesophageal cancer.
What to do: If you are worried about any of the above, seek medical advice immediately and/or consult your GP.
Please Remember: Contemporary treatments are improving all the time along with survival rates. So please, if you have any of the above symptoms see your GP as soon as possible.
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