Esophageal Cancers are mostly detected because of the symptoms one exhibits. But in most of the cases, it gets detected only once it reaches an advanced stage as it might not exhibit any particular symptoms and tends to gets difficult to treat.
One of the most common symptoms shown by people who have esophageal cancer is the difficulty in swallowing food and the sensation of choking on food. It starts mildly and overtime when the esophagus contracts, it becomes even more difficult to swallow. Without proper diagnosis, the symptoms may worsen and the person suffering from it might end up changing their diet plan and eating habits not realizing the extent of damage occurring in the esophagus.
Another common symptom found in people suffering from esophageal cancer is Chest Pain. People might often complain of feeling pain, pressure or burning sensation in the middle part of their chest. As this might also occur due to heartburn and not of cancer, it is often neglected.
Unintentional Weight loss is another result of not being able to swallow food properly.
Many other symptoms are identified to be associated with esophageal cancer which can also be a result of other conditions as well. Hence most cases of the cancer are detected accidentally rather than intentionally.
Acid Reflux is a result of acid flowing back from the stomach into the esophagus, which is very common and can result in severe heartburn. A reason for acid reflux might be a weak or damaged lower esophageal sphincter. Usually, it closes to prevent food from moving up to the esophagus. The amount of acid in the stomach depends on the type of food is taken. Hence the key to have acid reflux is control is having the right kind of food.
Certain foods if included in diet can help with acid reflux, which might be caused by stomach acid touching esophagus causing irritation. Vegetables which are naturally low in sugar and fat helps reduce stomach acid. Cauliflower, Potatoes, Green Beans, Leafy green vegetables, Asparagus, Broccoli, and Cucumber, can help in reducing acid reflux.
Ginger with its anti-inflammatory properties is a well-known remedy for heartburn and other gastrointestinal conditions. Whole grain and an abundant source of fiber – Oatmeal, whole grain bread or whole grain rice helps absorb acid in the stomach thus reducing heartburn and related symptoms.
Non-citrus fruits like bananas, melons, pears, and apples can be included in the diet as these are not acidic in nature. Lean meats like turkey, fish, and chicken can reduce symptoms of acid reflux as they are low in fat.
To lessen the irritations with acid reflux, keeping an eye on what the food intake is can of great help. High fat and fried foods trigger acid reflux and are better to be avoided for people with symptoms of acid reflux.
Foods better to be avoided for people with symptoms are Tomatoes and citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits also being acidic in nature should be avoided. Chocolates with its high-fat content, Garlic, and other spicy foods, coffee intake, etc. might prove to trigger the acid reflux making the conditions severe.
Acid Reflux and Esophageal Cancer – How do they relate?
Acid reflux is a prevalent condition triggered by certain foods for certain people. But studies indicate that the chances of developing esophageal cancer are deemed higher for people who appear to have chronic acid reflux. Reason for which be that acid reflux is a condition where acid from one’s stomach flows back to the esophagus which over time damages the mild esophageal tissues thus making a person prone to develop esophageal cancer at some point.
Esophageal cancer is of two types – adenocarcinoma and squamous cell. People with acute acid reflux are at significantly higher risk level to develop adenocarcinoma. The stomach lining protects it from the acid produced, whereas esophageal tissues are soft and do not have a protective layer to keep it from the damage caused by acids flowing by. Studies have indicated that this might be the reason for one with chronic acid reflux likely to be a candidate for esophageal cancer.
As there are not definite and unique symptoms for detecting esophageal cancer, a person suffering from any of the symptoms as mentioned above for a longer duration is a likely candidate and are usually advised to undergo a series of health check-ups to detect the same. The most common and likely procedure to undergo to check the esophageal tissue by passing a long tube through one’s esophagus is called endoscopy.
Another procedure to detect the disease is called Barium Swallow where the one undergoing the test is made to swallow a chalky liquid which lines the esophagus which helps the doctors identify once an X-Ray is taken.
If any cancerous tissues are detected in any of the tests, CT scan might be advised to confirm if the condition has spread elsewhere in the body.
As in every type of cancer, treatments for the condition will depend on the stage of cancer a person is. The main treatments are Surgery, Radiation, Chemotherapy or combination of the three.
If the cancer is detected in the early stages, there are chances of having the affected tissue surgically removed and reattaching the remaining portions thus preventing cancer from spreading to other parts of the body. In conditions which are more serious, the upper part of stomach and lymph nodes are also removed to eliminate the risk.
Using High energy beams in treating cancer cells by killing them is called Radiation. It might be administered from within the body or from outside the body. Radiation can be administered after or before the surgery or can be combined together with chemotherapy.
The treatment where drugs are used to kill Cancer cells is called Chemotherapy. This is most commonly used alongside Radiation in people suffering from esophageal cancer.
The treatment plans are decided once the stage of cancer a person is in is taken into account.
For a person who is prone to getting acid refluxes often can invest more time and effort into controlling it to reduce the risk of developing esophageal cancer.
Controlling eating habits, losing weight, sitting upright after every meal for a set period, sleeping in a better position, taking an antacid, quitting alcohol etc can ensure that acid reflux is controlled.
Taking better care of one’s lifestyle can reduce the risk of exposing oneself to the possibility of developing cancer.