Esophageal Cancer Symptoms
Esophageal cancer is cancer of the tube that carries food to the stomach – the esophagus. If not detected early, the cancer can reach advanced stages, making it more difficult to treat. Cancer cells can also spread throughout the body making the condition fatal. While the thought of cancer is scary, it is essential that you talk to your doctor about any symptoms that resemble esophageal cancer immediately.
Common Symptoms of Esophageal Cancer
Symptoms of esophageal cancer can include chest pain that is not caused by eating, vomiting blood, unexplained weight loss, difficulty in swallowing, heartburn and backward movement of food and stomach acid.
Symptoms of esophageal can seem like a simple case of GERD (acid reflux disease), especially in the early stages. This can cause many people to excuse their symptoms. They may try to use natural healing methods instead of talking to their doctor. This can delay diagnosis and treatment. In some cases, by the time the diagnosis is given, treatment may not be an option anymore.
When to Talk to Your Doctor?
If you are experiencing any symptoms listed above, you should talk to your doctor immediately. Your doctor can determine the cause of your symptoms and put you on a treatment plan. If the treatment plan does not work, then your doctor will know that further testing is needed to determine the source of your problem. Do not attempt to treat or diagnose yourself.
Testing Methods to Determine if You Have Esophageal Cancer
If your doctor suspects that you may have esophageal cancer, he will need to perform some tests. These tests can include a barium swallow, a PET scan, stool testing, a chest MRI, an esophagogastroduodenoscopy (a scope that will travel through your esophagus) and biopsy or an endoscopic ultrasound.
Testing methods to determine if you have esophageal cancer are virtually painless, despite how scary they may be. Know that your doctor needs these tests to know how to treat you. The sooner that cancer is detected and diagnosed, the better your chances of survival. Your cooperation is needed during the testing phase.
If You Do Not Have Esophageal Cancer
After testing is completed, your doctor may find that you do not have cancer. You may have some other type of digestive condition that is causing your symptoms and your doctor will talk to you about possible treatment methods – treatment methods that will address your particular condition. This may include a special diet, medication or surgical procedure. In most cases, the easiest to implement (diet) will be addressed first. If that does not work, your doctor will most likely try other treatment methods.
If You Have Esophageal Cancer
If you do have cancer, your doctor will talk to you about the severity of your condition. He or she will also talk to you about how your condition will be treated. If you do have cancer, you may want to take a family member or close friend for support. It can very disheartening and scary to find out that you have cancer and you may miss some of the important treatment details. Understanding your treatment can help you feel more confident about your condition. Confidence and optimism may help you fight your cancer successfully.
Treatment Options for Esophageal Cancer
Treatment of your cancer will depend on the severity. Radiation therapy or chemotherapy or removal of the cancer cells may be used to treat your cancer. Your doctor will evaluate your personal situation carefully, including any other health conditions you may have as well as the severity of your cancer to help determine which type of treatment is best.
Another type of treatment used for esophageal tumors is photodynamic therapy. In photodynamic therapy, a special drug is injected into the tumor. The tumor is then exposed to light, which activates the medication, helping the medication attach the tumor more effectively.
Treatment may also be used to help make swallowing easier – treatments like endoscopic dilation or stent placement into the esophagus. This can allow the doctor to treat the cancer better. It can also allow you to ingest foods that will help keep you healthy while you undergo treatment.
You may be placed on a liquid diet, depending on the severity of your condition and the type of treatments being used. Eating, while difficult, is important to keep your resistance high and keep your body in good health while you are receiving treatment.
Taking a friend or family member to your initial appointment can be helpful, especially when you are scared or frightened. But it is also important that you find a support system while you undergo treatment. This can help reduce the stress you feel which is important for the healing process. A support person will also help you get to your appointments and keep up on basic health needs when you feel too tired or ill to do so for yourself.
You may also want to join a support group. Support groups can help you deal with the emotional side of cancer. It can help you gain more optimism. It can also help you share your fears and feelings with others who understand what you are going through.