The esophagus is a hard-working muscle that has an important responsibility: moving food from the mouth to the stomach. It is approximately 10 inches long, and it is shaped like a tube. The innermost layer of the esophagus is called the mucosa, and the outermost layer is made of muscle. In-between, there is an additional layer called the submucosa. Though relatively rare, esophageal cancer does occur. Understanding possible symptoms and available treatments increase the likelihood of a speedy diagnosis, which may lead to a better long-term outcome.
Some symptoms of esophageal cancer are fairly general, and they should always be brought to the attention of a medical professional. For example, unexplained weight loss, fever, fatigue and feelings of weakness could be caused by a variety of conditions – cancer is just one possible explanation. Other symptoms of esophageal cancer are more specific to the area, though there are many reasons why these symptoms could be present.
These may include any or all of the following:
As with any cancer, individual patients may not experience the same combination of symptoms. Some have no symptoms at all. Others have symptoms that are similar to those of esophageal cancer, but they are caused by an entirely unrelated medical condition. If any of these symptoms come up, it is best to consult a specialized physician for thorough testing and diagnosis as soon as possible to prevent unnecessary worry.
There are typically two types of cells lining the esophagus, which means that esophageal cancer usually falls into one of two categories. Cancer that starts in the squamous cells generally appears in the upper portion of the esophagus, and it is referred to as squamous cell carcinoma. If cancer begins in the cells of the glands that produce mucus, it is referred to as adenocarcinomas. This type of esophageal cancer usually originates in the lower portion of the esophagus.
As with other forms of cancer, physicians assign stages or levels of severity, depending on how far the disease has progressed. Higher-numbered stages indicate a more serious situation.
The stages of esophageal cancer are as follows:
Determining cancer stages impacts the type of treatment that most effectively reduces symptoms. Physicians use a number of tests and procedures to ensure the diagnosis is accurate so that they can develop a comprehensive treatment plan.
There are several possible treatments for esophageal cancer, and often they are used in combination for maximum effectiveness. The most common include:
Providers determine which treatments to use and in what order based on the specific diagnosis and stage of cancer.
A cancer diagnosis is always frightening, but there are treatments available. For more information on esophageal cancer treatment in San Antonio, contact the experts at the Digestive & Liver Disease Center to schedule an appointment today.