Monday, April 25, 2011

Small, but Growing.

In 2010, an estimated 16,640 adults in the United States were expected to be diagnosed with esophageal cancer. A huge portion of that projected number (13,130 to be exact) was attributed to males. This makes esophageal cancer the 7th most common cause of cancer deaths among men in the U.S.

While those kinds of numbers don't qualify it for a "common" status in our country, esophageal cancer has become the fastest-increasing cancer diagnosis in the U.S., up more than 400 percent in the past two decades, according to the Esophageal Cancer Action Network.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS of esophageal cancer include:
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
Early esophageal cancer typically causes no signs or symptoms. If you've been diagnosed with Barrett's esophagus, a precancerous condition that increases your risk of esophageal cancer, ask your doctor what signs and symptoms to watch for that may signal that your condition is worsening. Also ask what screening tests you should consider.

There are two main types of esophageal cancer:
  • Adenocarcinoma. Adenocarcinoma begins in the cells of mucus-secreting glands in the esophagus. Adenocarcinoma occurs most often in the lower portion of the esophagus. Adenocarcinoma is the most common form of esophageal cancer in the United States.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma. The squamous cells are flat, thin cells that line the surface of the esophagus. Squamous cell carcinoma occurs most often in the middle of the esophagus. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most prevalent esophageal cancer worldwide.
RISK FACTORS: It's thought that chronic irritation of your esophagus may contribute to the DNA changes that cause esophageal cancer. Factors that cause irritation in the cells of your esophagus and increase your risk of esophageal cancer include:
  • Alcohol
  • Bile reflux
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Difficulty swallowing caused by an esophageal sphincter that won't relax (achalasia)
  • Drinking very hot liquids
  • Eating a diet low in fruits and vegetables
  • Eating foods preserved in lye
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Obesity
  • Precancerous changes in the cells of the esophagus (Barrett's esophagus)
  • Radiation treatment to the chest or upper abdomen
  • Smoking
As with any type of cancer - know your risks, know the symptoms, and talk to your physician if you are concerned.

Information for this post was gathered from the following websites:

Mayo Clinic
The Baltimore Sun
Esophageal Cancer Action Network

No comments: