Esophageal cancer rates are rising, so awareness is critical
You and your family may not have heard of esophageal cancer. However, it is one of the fastest growing cancers in the United States, especially among Caucasian men. Michael Weisberg MD, a prominent Plano gastroenterologist, wants you to be aware of the risk factors and symptoms of esophageal cancer.
Understanding esophageal cancer
Esophageal cancer occurs when malignant cells form in the moist tissue that lines the esophagus, a long tube that connects your throat to your stomach. The sphincter muscle at the bottom of the esophagus prevents acid and the contents of your stomach from traveling backward from the stomach into the esophagus. If it works incorrectly, you will have heartburn, known as reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), conditions that our experienced Plano gastroenterologist diagnoses and treats.
Over time, persistent reflux causes the cells of the esophagus to change. You may develop Barrett’s esophagus, a pre-cancerous condition. If the cells of the inner lining become malignant, or cancerous, you have esophageal cancer that can spread to the outer layers of esophageal cells and even to other body organs in the later stages.
Be on the lookout for signs and symptoms
Knowing what to look for could save your life. Esophageal cancer doesn’t always cause symptoms in the early stages, and many people dismiss the signs as everyday problems.
- Feeling like it is difficult or painful to swallow
- Globus, which is a feeling that there is something in the back of the throat
- Losing weight unexpectedly
- Heartburn and indigestion, especially lasting six months or more
- Feeling hoarse
- Pain, pressure or burning behind the breastbone
Our Plano gastroenterologist urges you not to ignore these signs. Seeking advice early could help discover esophageal pre-cancerous conditions or cancer in the earliest and most treatable stages.
Find out if you have an increased risk of esophageal cancer
You may have an increased chance of developing esophageal cancer if you have any of these risk factors.
- Having reflux or GERD for more than six months
- Having the precancerous condition called Barrett’s esophagus
- Drinking alcohol
- Eating an unhealthy diet, particularly failing to eat enough fruits and vegetables.
- Drinking very hot liquids frequently
Men and people over age 55 are also at higher risk for developing this disease.
Talk to our Plano gastroenterologist about screening for the disease
If you or your family members or friends are experiencing any of the symptoms or signs of esophageal cancer, particularly persistent reflux, you should meet with our Plano gastroenterologist to discuss treatment and screening.
Screening involves an upper endoscopy, a procedure where the physician inserts a flexible tube with a tiny camera on the end into the throat to view your upper digestive system. During the procedure, the physician can biopsy tissue if there is anything of concern. Contact us to schedule an appointment with Dr. Weisberg before esophageal problems become a bigger issue.
Chronic Acid Reflux Complications
- Barrett’s esophagus
- Esophageal cancer
- Respiratory problems
- Trouble swallowing
- Chronic cough