6 Facts You Should Know About Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal Cancer is a disease in which cancer cells form in the esophagus. The esophagus is a long hollow tube that runs from your throat to your stomach. It carries food after being swallowed into your stomach for digestion. 

Esophageal Cancer Facts

Although rare, it is important for all individuals to have a certain level of health literacy, as it can help to prevent problems, protect your health, and manage symptoms when they arise.  Birmingham Gastroenterology has compiled a list of 6 must-know facts regarding esophageal cancer: 

  1. There Are Two Main Types Of Esophageal Cancer

There are two main types of esophageal cancer, based on the type of cell it starts in: squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma: 

  • Adenocarcinoma: This cancer occurs in the lower part of the esophagus and the upper part of the stomach. This cancer affects mostly middle-aged, overweight, white men. Adenocarcinoma has grown faster than any other cancer in the U.S. due to the increase in gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Treating GERD early on can prevent adenocarcinoma. 
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Squamous Cell Carcinoma is strongly linked to smoking and drinking too much alcohol. It begins when squamous cells – thin flat cells that line the inside of the esophagus – grow uncontrollably. 
  1. Men Are More Likely To Develop Esophageal Cancer Than Women

According to the American Cancer Society, esophageal cancer is much more common in men than in women. In fact, men experience a lifetime risk of esophageal cancer at about 1 in 125 compared to about 1 in 417 in women. Other risk factors include age, tobacco use, alcohol consumption, gastroesophageal reflux disease, Barrett’s esophagus, obesity, diet, and physical activity levels. 

  1. Esophageal Cancer Is Linked To Obesity

People who are overweight or obese have a higher chance of developing adenocarcinoma of the esophagus. This type of cancer starts in the gland cells, which make mucus, and is often found in the lower third of the esophagus. An NIH study concluded that abdominal obesity and visceral obesity is directly linked to gastroesophageal reflux, Barrett’s esophagus, and oesophageal adenocarcinoma.

  1. Healthy Lifestyle Choices May Help Prevent This Cancer 

A great way to reduce your risk of this cancer is by making healthy lifestyle choices. Lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of esophageal cancer and increase your overall well-being include:

  • Limit or eliminate alcohol consumption
  • Engage in 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week
  • Losing weight if needed
  • Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables
  • Get treated for acid reflux or Barrett’s esophagus

By maintaining a nutritious diet, exercising daily, and engaging in healthy lifestyle choices, you can decrease your risk of developing esophageal cancer. 

  1. Surgery Is The Most Common Treatment

Once you’ve been diagnosed with esophageal cancer, it’s time to discuss treatment options with your healthcare provider. In most cases, surgery is the most common treatment, where a part of the esophagus is removed through a procedure called an esophagectomy. Other treatments may include radiation, targeted drug therapy, immunotherapy, or other endoscopic treatments.

  1. Barrett’s Esophagus Is A Risk Factor

Barrett’s esophagus increases your risk of esophageal cancer due to chronic acid reflux. This condition damages the tube that connects the mouth and stomach due to repeated exposure to stomach acid. If you have been diagnosed with this condition, ask your doctor what signs and symptoms to watch for that may signal that your condition is worsening. It is suggested an estimated 10-15 percent of patients with GERD will develop Barrett’s esophagus, and approximately 1 in 860 Barrett’s esophagus patients will develop esophageal cancer.

If you are concerned about any symptoms you are experiencing, call your physician today. As with most diseases, early diagnosis leads to better outcomes. Birmingham Gastroenterology has decades of experience treating diseases and disorders in all parts of the digestive system. Additionally, we offer HALO ablation technology. HALO is an ablation device used during endoscopy to remove advanced Barrett’s esophagus. To make an appointment to discuss your symptoms and treatment options, call us at (205) 271-8000.

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