Cancer means the uncontrolled growth of cancerous or unwanted cells in the body.

What is Oesophageal Cancer?

Cancer means the uncontrolled growth of cancerous or unwanted cells in the body. The growth is in the form of a tumour or lump. Cancer can strike any part of the body. Oesophagus is the scientific name of the gullet or the pipe which carries food from the throat to the stomach and is a part of the digestive system. Cancer of this pipe/Oesophagus/gullet is called Oesophageal Cancer.

What happens in Oesophageal Cancer?

Oesophageal Cancer is an uncommon but serious type of cancer that affects the Oesophagus which is an important part of the digestive system.

The top part of the Gullet or Oesophagus lies behind the windpipe and travels through the chest between the heart and the spinal cord.

Cancer, when it affects the upper part of the gullet is known as Squamous Cell Carcinoma and cancer of the lower part of gullet is known as Adenocarcinoma. Both types lead to difficulties in swallowing food, resulting in weight loss and other persistent conditions.

What are the causes of Oesophageal Cancer and who are at risk?

The causes include genes or heredity, excessive consumption of alcohol along with smoking. Another reason is the repetitive exposure of the lower tract of the oesophagus to the stomach acids which cause heartburn. This leads to Adenocarcinoma.

Risk factors are:

Spirit based alcohols, barbequed food which contains carcinogens, smoked and salty foods, and men aged above 60 are more likely to be at risk than women.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms are:

  • Difficulty in swallowing food

  • Feeling of food being stuck whether it is solid or semi solid and later even liquids

  • Pain between the shoulder blades

  • Weight loss and fatigue

  • Heartburn, vomiting and vomiting of blood

How is Oesophageal Cancer diagnosed?
  • The diagnosis involves an X-Ray using a special liquid to see any narrowing of the gullet

  • Test by using an endoscope is more decisive

  • Biopsy by examining a part of tissue

  • CT Scan to determine the stage of the cancer

Can Oesophageal cancer be cured?

Oesophageal Cancer cannot be cured completely like any other cancer, but can be treated to reduce the symptoms. Treatment also depends upon the stage of the cancer. The survival rate is low and the chances decrease with age.

The Oncologist is the specialist who treats Cancers.

The doctor may adopt a line of treatment, taking into consideration the other factors like the age and overall health of the patients as Cancer treatment involves harsh procedures like chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery.

Can Oesophageal Cancer be prevented?

Most of the cancers are lifestyle diseases and sometimes due to heredity.

A sedentary lifestyle will pose a risk for cancer whereas a healthy lifestyle will help you lead a happy life.

Avoid smoking and drinking. Tobacco is a known carcinogen.

Avoid having foods with carcinogens which cause irritation leading to heartburn. Carcinogens are small hard particles produced by over cooking of food.

Visit your Doctor if you have any persistent symptoms.

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