Oesophageal cancer refers to cancer of the oesophagus, the long tube that connects the throat to your stomach. Malignant tumours usually originate in the lining of the oesophagus. As cancer spreads, muscles and tissues present deep within the oesophagus are affected too.
Types of oesophageal cancer
Oesophageal cancer is of two types –
Squamous Cell Carcinoma – Cancer develops in the thin, flat cells that form the oesophagus lining. Usually, this type of cancer originates in the middle or top of the oesophagus but may occur elsewhere too.
Adenocarcinoma – Cancer stems from the glandular cells of the oesophagus, which are primarily responsible for producing fluids – mucus. This type of cancer is more common in the lower portion of the oesophagus.
A poorly controlled acid reflux and smoking are the most significant factors that put you at risk of developing the above forms of oesophageal cancer.
Signs of oesophagus cancer
During the initial stages of cancer, you probably will not encounter any symptoms. However, as cancer becomes more aggressive and starts spreading to other body parts, you will have to look out for the following symptoms –
Unintentional weight loss
Loss of appetite
Persistent heartburn or indigestion – usually lasting three weeks or more
Discomfort or pain in the chest, back, or upper abdomen
Choking more often when eating
Hiccups and coughing, hoarseness
Fatigue and tiredness
Shortness of breath
Vomiting, sometimes with bouts of blood coming out
Food coming back up the oesophagus soon after having a meal
Many of the above symptoms are similar to those of other diseases and conditions. This is why you may not be able to identify the signs. Nevertheless, it is better to get yourself checked and consult a specialist as early as possible to avoid any complications.
Early diagnosis and treatment can help manage the symptoms of oesophageal cancer, and even cure the disease while there is still time. The sooner you identify the signs and undergo treatment, the better your chances of recovery.