Esophageal Cancer Symptoms
Esophageal cancer symptoms become progressively worse as tumor size
increases. Initially, a patient may not notice esophageal cancer
symptoms at all, as the tumors are too small to cause problems. As
tumors grow, esophageal cancer symptoms appear, beginning with
difficulty swallowing. This difficulty is often accompanied by other
common esophageal cancer symptoms: feelings of fullness, pressure,
and burning as food travels down the esophagus. Another of the
esophageal cancer symptoms is the sensation of having a piece of
food stuck behind the breastbone. Esophageal cancer symptoms
manifested through difficulty swallowing may come and go, generally
growing worse each time they return. Esophageal cancer symptoms such
as heartburn, indigestion, and vomiting lead to weight loss, as
discomfort affects eating habits. Esophageal cancer symptoms can
also include coughing and hoarseness.
Many of the various esophageal cancer symptoms mimic symptoms of
other disorders, so it is important to have the disease properly
diagnosed. Esophageal cancer symptoms are generally investigated by
a gastroenterologist, a doctor specializing in digestive tract
diseases. Diagnosis of esophageal cancer symptoms is usually
conducted through an x-ray method known as the barium swallow.
Analysis of esophageal cancer symptoms may also be accomplished
using a thin, lighted tube known as an esophagoscope. Properly
diagnosing esophageal cancer symptoms is critical to ensuring
patients' chances for survival.
Esophageal Cancer Treatment
Esophageal cancer treatment is determined by the staging, or
progression the cancer has made. Proper diagnosis is crucial to
esophageal cancer treatment. Once a proper diagnosis has been
obtained, most patients will undergo one of three esophageal cancer
treatments: surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. If the
cancer is caught early enough, esophageal cancer treatment can cure
it. Otherwise, controlling the disease or relieving symptoms is the
goal of esophageal cancer treatment.
The most commonly used form of esophageal cancer treatment is
surgery. In early stage tumors, surgery will usually result in a
cure. Generally, this esophageal cancer treatment requires removal
of the affected portion of the esophagus, with a reconnection
sometimes using tubing. Esophageal cancer treatment using surgery
sometimes cannot remove a tumor blockage, so a bypass will be
created, allowing esophageal cancer treatment in the form of
radiation or chemotherapy to shrink the tumor.
Radiation used in esophageal cancer treatment serves to shrink the
tumor by damaging the cancer cells. Like surgery, this form of
esophageal cancer treatment is localized; it affects cells only in
the treated area. Radiation alone is an esophageal cancer treatment,
but it can also be used in conjunction with surgery.
Chemotherapy is another form of esophageal cancer treatment that can
be performed independently of or in conjunction with other methods
of esophageal cancer treatment. Chemotherapy uses strong doses of
drugs to kill cancer cells. Unlike surgery and radiation esophageal
cancer treatments, chemotherapy is systemic: drugs travel throughout
the body and often attack non-cancer cells. Therefore, esophageal
cancer treatment utilizing chemotherapy often involves alternating
periods of treatment and rest.
Once the doctor makes an accurate diagnosis, esophageal cancer
treatment can begin. Esophageal cancer is only curable if caught
early, and diagnosis is difficult. Esophageal cancer treatment is
therefore only as effective as the doctor's diagnosis and swift
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