Scary ‘esophageal cancer’ that spreads cancer to surrounding organs… What are the initial symptoms?

The esophagus is a muscular tube-shaped organ that runs from the mouth to the stomach. The esophagus, which is part of the digestive tract, serves as a passageway for food ingested through the mouth to the stomach. A malignant tumor in the esophagus is called esophageal cancer.

Esophageal cancer is scary because it spreads easily to other organs. The esophagus does not have a serosal membrane, so when cancer occurs, it can penetrate the outer wall of the esophagus and invade the surrounding organs relatively easily. In particular, it is highly likely to metastasize to the lymph nodes around the esophagus, and may also metastasize to the thyroid gland, pericardium, pleura, diaphragm, liver, and spine. As such esophageal cancer is detected later, the prognosis is poor, so it is necessary to actively pay attention and manage it. The symptoms, treatment, and prevention of esophageal cancer were investigated.

Quiet esophageal cancer, what are the symptoms?

In fact, esophageal cancer often does not cause any symptoms until the disease is substantially advanced. Because of the nature of the esophagus that stretches well. In most cases, early esophageal cancer is discovered incidentally during endoscopy during a medical examination. If you feel symptoms, the cancer is often quite advanced. In most cases, early esophageal cancer is found incidentally during endoscopy during a medical examination.

However, if esophageal cancer is advanced to some extent, characteristic symptoms may appear. In particular, elderly men are relatively susceptible to esophageal cancer, so special attention is required when the following symptoms occur.

1. Dysphagia: Difficulty passing food

Dysphagia refers to a symptom in which it is difficult to pass food through the throat or food that is supposed to go through the esophagus enters the airways incorrectly. As esophageal cancer progresses, the lumen of the esophagus narrows, making it difficult to swallow food. In a Hidak Q&A, Hidak Internal Medicine Consulting Doctor Seo Chang-jin (Health Dream Internal Medicine Clinic) said, “The fact that dysphagia has occurred means that the esophageal cancer has advanced enough to block the lumen of the esophagus. explained. If dysphagia occurs suddenly, it is most likely an esophageal ulcer or a foreign body caught in the esophagus. However, if the symptoms of dysphagia develop gradually, esophageal cancer should be suspected.

2. Lose weight

Esophageal cancer patients are prone to weight loss due to nutritional deficiencies. As esophageal cancer progresses, swallowing becomes more difficult. It is difficult to swallow solid foods at first, but gradually it becomes difficult to swallow even soft foods such as porridge. In severe cases, it is difficult to drink even water. This results in weight loss.

3. There is a subtle pain in the breastbone area.

If you have advanced esophageal cancer, you may sometimes feel discomfort in the back of the breastbone after swallowing food, and you may feel a stinging or burning sensation. Symptoms are exacerbated especially when eating spicy foods. The pain caused by inflammation of the esophagus is similar to that of angina in its location and pattern. In particular, chest pain caused by esophageal spasm can be easily mistaken for angina pectoris because the symptoms can be relieved with angina medications. However, unlike angina, pain caused by esophageal disease occurs independently of exercise, so the disease can be distinguished depending on whether or not exercise is performed.

4. The voice is hoarse.

Hoarseness is also one of the symptoms of esophageal cancer. When esophageal cancer spreads to the lymph nodes, it can put pressure on the nerves and cause your voice to suddenly stop. If the movement of the vocal cords is not good, esophageal cancer should be differentiated through examination.

5. I keep coughing.

Acid reflux is one of the main causes of esophageal cancer, and acid reflux causes frequent coughing. This is because acid from the stomach enters the esophagus and stimulates the nerves in the esophagus. However, there are various diseases that cause coughing, so it is recommended to consult a specialist if the above symptoms appear along with coughing. Hidak internal medicine consultation doctor Jang Seok-won (Seoul Internal Medicine Clinic) said in the Hidak Q&A, “Even if it is not esophageal cancer, if stomach acid refluxes into the esophagus, coughing can occur. If you have a cough, please avoid irritating foods such as spicy and salty foods, sour foods, and coffee.”

If esophageal cancer is suspected, endoscopy is performed. Through endoscopy, the esophageal mucosa can be directly observed to check for abnormalities. In addition, esophageal angiography, esophageal ultrasonography, and computed tomography (CT) examination can be performed in parallel.

Endoscopy can detect esophageal cancer | Source: Getty Images Bank

Esophageal cancer treatment depends on the stage

If esophageal cancer is diagnosed through examination, proceed with treatment. Professor Yunsun Choi (Inje University Pusan ​​Paik Hospital), a specialist in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Hidak, said in a column at Hidak, “The treatment method and prognosis for esophageal cancer are markedly different depending on the time of discovery. Treatment is based on stage. If resection is possible, endoscopic resection through an endoscope or esophagectomy, which is a surgical treatment, can be tried.

Avoid drinking alcohol, smoking, and hot drinks

To prevent esophageal cancer, it is best to avoid risk factors for esophageal cancer. There are many different causes of esophageal cancer. There are many causes, including genetics, food, alcohol and tobacco, and various medications. Among them, the biggest risk factors are excessive drinking and smoking. In a Hidak Q&A, Dr. Il-shik Hyun (Shiwon Nuri Internal Medicine Clinic), an internal medicine consultant at Hidak, said, “The main risk factors for esophageal cancer are alcohol and tobacco. The risk of esophageal cancer is greatly increased due to the synergistic effect when doing two things at the same time rather than doing one thing alone.” Therefore, it is recommended to reduce drinking and smoking to prevent esophageal cancer. In particular, people who blush when drinking alcohol should avoid drinking even more because the enzyme that breaks down acetaldehyde, a carcinogen generated during alcohol metabolism, has a weak function.

In addition, frequent drinking of hot tea for a long period of time is also known to be a risk factor for esophageal cancer. This is because it can cause chronic thermal damage to the esophageal mucosa. Hot drinks are fine, but hot drinks above 65 degrees can cause cancer and should be avoided.

In addition, eating a balanced diet rich in vegetables and fruits can help prevent esophageal cancer. In addition, if there are precancerous lesions of the esophagus such as Barrett’s esophagus, esophageal stricture, or achalasia, it is important to check the abnormality at an early stage through regular examinations once a year.

Help = Hidak Consulting Doctor Seo Chang-jin (Internal Medicine Specialist at Health Dream Internal Medicine Clinic)

Hidak Consulting Doctor Jang Seok-won (Seoul Internal Medicine Specialist)

Professor Yunsun Choi, Consulting Doctor at Hidak (Dept. of Radiation Oncology, Inje University Pusan ​​Paik Hospital)

Hidak Consulting Doctor Il-shik Hyun (Internal Medicine Specialist at Siwon Nuri Medical Center)

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