6 alarming signs of esophageal cancer
The esophagus is a muscular tube that connects the throat to the stomach. When one swallows food, it enters the esophagus and is pushed downward by rhythmic contractions of the muscles in the esophageal wall. The normal esophagus cells grow and replace old ones in a regulated and orderly manner. But when esophageal cancer develops, the cells grow and divide uncontrollably and form a tumor. Esophageal cancer is malignant and requires prompt diagnosis and treatment.
Symptoms of esophageal cancer
An alarming early sign of esophageal cancer is difficulty swallowing, the organ’s primary function. This may feel like food is getting stuck in one’s throat or chest, and it can happen even when taking small bites of food or liquid. This symptom can also lead to choking, coughing, or regurgitation of food.
Chest pain or discomfort
Esophageal cancer can cause chest pain or discomfort, especially when eating or drinking. The pain may feel like a burning sensation in one’s chest or upper abdomen and can be confused with heartburn or indigestion.
Unexplained loss of body mass
Cancer can affect one’s ability to eat and absorb nutrients. So, if one seems to lose body mass without trying, it could be a sign of esophageal cancer.
Hoarseness or chronic cough
Esophageal cancer can affect the nerves that control the vocal cords, causing hoarseness or a chronic cough. This symptom is often overlooked, but seeing a doctor is essential if it persists for over a few weeks.
If one experiences pain or discomfort while swallowing, it could be a sign that the tumor has grown large enough to cause physical obstruction in the esophagus.
Vomiting or nausea
The esophageal blockage due to cancerous cells can lead to a vomiting or nauseous sensation, especially after eating.
If one is experiencing any of these symptoms, seeing a doctor immediately is essential. Esophageal cancer, if left untreated, can become severe and potentially life-threatening. Early diagnosis and treatment can improve one’s chances of surviving esophageal cancer. A doctor may perform a physical exam, order imaging tests like an endoscopy or CT scan, or perform a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. Some common treatment options for the disease include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of these approaches, depending on the stage and location of the cancer.
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