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Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer is a deadly disease, but early detection and a healthy lifestyle can help improve outcomes.
Last year about 18,000 Americans were diagnosed with esophageal cancer, which includes squamous cell carcinoma and Barrett’s Esophagus. This disease has a 50 to 60 percent mortality rate, because it is usually diagnosed in a late stage, says Chris Mogren, nurse practitioner in the gastroenterology division at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.  He describes some symptoms:

“Early signs people may have are a tickling or a sensation in their esophagus that we call transient sticking.  Sometimes they get food stuck or a pill stuck in their esophagus and they are not able to get it down or they have to drink a lot of fluid to get that sensation to pass.” 

Squamous cell carcinoma is associated with smoking and alcohol consumption, while Barrett’s Esophagus is caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease and obesity.  Men are three to four times more likely than women to get this cancer.  Some treatment options are:

“... we usually want to do a barium swallow. If it is positive, then what we do is an upper endoscopy procedure where we go down with a long tube with a camera on it and look and see visually what the mass could be.  Sometimes they will get biopsies, but normally if they see a mass, they then they will use a different type of scope called an esophageal ultrasound.” 

Mogren says anyone with symptoms for esophageal cancer should be checked by a physician as soon as possible.  Stopping smoking, not using alcohol in an abusive way, weight loss and healthy eating can help prevent the disease.

Ruth Slottag