Of the Esophageal cancer is also called in medical terminology Esophageal carcinoma designated. This is a malignant growth in the area of the esophagus.
Schematic representation of the anatomy in esophageal cancer. Click to enlarge.
Esophageal cancer is a rather rare form of cancer that occurs mainly in people over 60 years of age. Men are about three times as likely to be affected as women.
The esophagus is the part of the body that carries food from the mouth to the abdomen. This is a strand of muscle and a fairly flexible organ. Esophageal cancer causes the esophagus to become more and more narrow, which in the advanced stages of the disease usually leads to problems with eating.
The esophagus is lined with a layer of mucus; The malignant tumor usually originates from this mucous membrane.
As the main cause of the disease Esophageal cancer excessive consumption of alcohol and cigarettes is assumed. However, an unhealthy diet can also promote esophageal cancer; In particular, foods that are too fatty should be avoided.
Those who constantly eat food that are too hot are particularly at risk of developing esophageal cancer. Finally, congenital malformations of the esophagus can ultimately lead to esophageal cancer.
Likewise, patients who suffer from so-called reflux disease are particularly at risk. In this case, stomach acid flows unhindered back into the esophagus, which naturally attacks and irritates it.
Due to the ability of the esophagus to stretch, symptoms only appear in the late stages of cancer. Esophageal cancer can manifest itself as problems swallowing, often accompanied by pain and a non-specific feeling of pressure. Many sufferers describe the feeling as pressing or constricting.
In addition, gagging and heartburn can set in, whereby these symptoms occur only temporarily or not at all in many patients. A clear sign are cramps in the esophagus. These cramps come on suddenly and can reach the face and back.
If the tumor is located in the area of the larynx, hoarseness and changes in the color of the voice occur. In parallel to these complaints, which are localized in the vicinity of the esophagus, various general symptoms appear. Possible signs include weight loss, loss of appetite, and bleeding. It can also cause nausea and vomiting and other gastrointestinal complaints.
Esophageal cancer develops insidiously and only causes clear symptoms in the later course, which then persist or occur more frequently. If the disease progresses, there is a loss of voice and finally metastasis, which is associated with further, sometimes life-threatening complications (such as organ failure or circulatory disorders).
Of the Esophageal cancer is a creeping illness that usually shows symptoms late. If this finally occurs, it is a feeling of pressure in the neck area; back pain can sometimes also occur. These are usually much lower when eating liquid food such as soups or porridge.
Hoarseness and sudden unexplained weight loss are other symptoms that may show up as the disease progresses. In the advanced stage, swallowing difficulties and the associated problems with food intake arise.
The diagnosis of esophageal cancer can usually be made accurately with the help of an esophagus specimen, known as endoscopy. During this therapy, various tissue samples are taken and then examined in the laboratory. During this examination, the patient has to swallow a tube, similar to a gastroscopy.
With a little luck, the attending physician can remove the cancer while the esophagus is being mirrored. However, in order to determine how far the cancer has already spread in the body, further examinations are necessary, for example computed tomography.
Esophageal cancer can be associated with various complications. The disease is often associated with weight loss, which, if left untreated, leads to dehydration and deficiency symptoms. The typical bleeding causes anemia and can thus increase the feeling of illness. Typically, the sick suffer from severe fatigue and are generally less productive.
Serious complications arise when falls or accidents occur due to physical and mental weakness. From then on, cancer also affects the mental state. The sick often suffer from depressive moods and fearful thoughts, which increase in intensity if the outcome is unfavorable. Treating esophageal cancer is not risk-free. In addition to infection, bleeding and wound healing disorders, an operation can also damage the vocal cord or esophagus.
Depending on the location of the tumor and the depth of the incision, this can lead to loss of voice or permanent difficulty swallowing. Chemotherapy leads to hair loss and can also cause organ damage and cardiovascular problems. With radiation therapy, there is a risk of possible delayed reactions: discoloration of the skin, damage to the mucous membrane and the digestive tract, and permanent skin changes.
In the case of esophageal cancer, a doctor should always be consulted immediately. The person concerned can die, so that early diagnosis and treatment of the disease can always have a positive effect on the further course. The earlier the esophageal cancer is detected, the better the further prognosis is usually. For this reason, a doctor should be consulted at the first signs of this disease.
In the case of esophageal cancer, the doctor should be consulted if the person concerned suffers from difficulty and discomfort when swallowing, resulting in permanent pain. Severe heartburn or gag reflex can also indicate this cancer and should always be examined by a doctor. In many cases, bleeding or a severe loss of weight also suggest esophageal cancer and should also be examined by a doctor. In the further course of the disease, those affected usually suffer from an organ problem and die from it.
If esophageal cancer is suspected, a general practitioner or an internist can be seen. Further treatment depends heavily on the exact nature of this complaint.
Treatment of Esophageal cancer depends on how far it has already progressed or what stage it is at. Patients in whom the tumor can be completely removed in one operation have the best chance of complete cure.
This is a very large and dangerous procedure, after all, the chest and usually the abdominal cavity must be opened. Now part of the esophagus is removed and then the stomach is pulled up a little and connected to the rest of the esophagus.
However, an operation alone is often not enough; radiation or chemotherapy must also be administered. Especially if the tumor is too large, it can usually not be removed surgically. In this case, radiation is first used to shrink the tumor and make it operable.
Without prompt and appropriate treatment, esophageal cancer can quickly spread to other organs in the body, such as the windpipe or bronchi. All patients in whom the cancer has not yet spread, i.e. where no metastases have yet occurred in neighboring organs, have the best chance of a cure.
To the disease Esophageal cancer To prevent it, one must first pay attention to a healthy lifestyle. This includes abstaining from alcohol and cigarettes as well as a healthy lifestyle. Above all, diet plays a crucial role; At best, you should avoid too much fat. Food that contains nitrosamines should also be avoided as far as possible, as these are known to be carcinogenic.
The treatment of esophageal cancer is followed by follow-up treatment. One of the most important tasks of aftercare is to take action against accompanying and secondary illnesses. In addition, it helps the patient to cope with physical, emotional or social problems caused by the disease or its treatment. It is also important to recognize a possible relapse early on and treat it accordingly.
If the esophagus has been partially or completely removed during an operation, various follow-up examinations are required, as it is a considerable interference with the system of food intake. The examinations are carried out either by the family doctor or in a clinic. Which and how many examinations are ultimately required depends on the patient's individual state of health and the way in which he was previously treated.
As part of the follow-up examination, the doctor speaks to the patient and asks how he is. In addition, the person concerned will be examined and their body weight will be checked. In addition, examinations such as an ultrasound of the upper abdomen, laboratory tests and x-rays of the lungs are possible. In addition, a reflection of the remaining esophagus and the surgical suture can take place.
Follow-up care for esophageal cancer can take several years. Tests such as bone scintigraphy or computed tomography of the abdomen and thorax are recommended every 6 to 18 months.
The diagnosis of esophageal cancer always requires intensive medical treatment. Surgery and radiation as the means of choice leave no room for self-help when it comes to removing the tumor. Since esophageal cancer can also grow aggressively, those affected should not lose any time after diagnosis and seek specialist treatment.
There are no known home or herbal remedies that have been scientifically proven to make a tumor of the esophagus disappear. Alternative medical offers that promise healing should therefore be examined very critically and discussed with the attending physician. Basically, when diagnosing esophageal cancer, it is not advisable to turn down conventional medical therapies in the hope of self-help.
In everyday life, patients with esophageal cancer can still be active in the area of self-help in order to improve their quality of life. Many experience that not eating certain foods or luxury foods reduces pain. Many health insurances and care support points also offer training courses on the subject of nutrition, which can impart valuable knowledge. Especially after an operation in which parts of the esophagus have been removed, knowledge about special foods and forms of nutrition can also be very valuable for family carers.