Esophageal Cancer (cont.)
In this Article
- Esophageal cancer facts*
- What is the esophagus?
- What is cancer?
- What are the types of esophageal cancer?
- What are esophageal cancer causes and risk factors?
- What are esophageal cancer symptoms and signs?
- How is esophageal cancer diagnosed?
- What are the stages of esophageal cancer?
- What is the treatment for esophageal cancer?
- Radiation therapy
- Should people get a second opinion after an esophageal cancer diagnosis?
- What are the side effects of treatment for cancer of the esophagus?
- What follow-up care is necessary during recovery?
- Where can people get support for esophageal cancer?
- How can people with esophageal cancer participate in clinical trials?
- Where can people find more information about esophageal cancer?
- Find a local Oncologist in your town
Early esophageal cancer may not cause symptoms. As the cancer grows, the most common symptoms are:
- Food gets stuck in the esophagus, and food may come back up
- Pain when swallowing
- Pain in the chest or back
- Weight loss
- A hoarse voice or cough that doesn't go away within 2 weeks
These symptoms may be caused by esophageal cancer or other health problems. If you have any of these symptoms, you should tell your doctor so that problems can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.
If you have a symptom that suggests esophageal cancer, your doctor must find out whether it's really due to cancer or to some other cause. The doctor gives you a physical exam and asks about your personal and family health history. You may have blood tests. You also may have:
- Barium swallow: After you drink a barium solution, you have x-rays taken of your esophagus and stomach. The barium solution makes your esophagus show up more clearly on the x-rays. This test is also called an upper GI series.
- Endoscopy: The doctor uses a thin, lighted, flexible tube (endoscope) to look down your esophagus. The doctor first numbs your throat with an anesthetic spray, and you may also receive medicine to help you relax. The tube is passed through your mouth or nose to the esophagus. The doctor may also call this procedure upper endoscopy, EGD, or esophagoscopy.
- Biopsy: Usually, cancer begins in the inner layer of the esophagus. The doctor uses an endoscope to remove tissue from the esophagus. A pathologist checks the tissue under a microscope for cancer cells. A biopsy is the only sure way to know if cancer cells are present.
You may want to ask the doctor these questions before having a biopsy:
- Where will the procedure take place? Will I have to go to the hospital?
- How long will it take? Will I be awake?
- Will it hurt? Will I get an anesthetic?
- What are the risks? What are the chances of infection or bleeding afterward?
- How do I prepare for the procedure?
- How long will it take me to recover?
- How soon will I know the results? Will I get a copy of the pathology report?
- If I do have cancer, who will talk to me about the next steps? When?
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