Esophageal cancer arises from a collection of abnormal cells that establish a tumour within the esophagus's inner lining. Once these cancerous cells infiltrate the esophagus wall, they have the potential to metastasise to various regions, including the lymph nodes, aorta, lungs, liver, and stomach.

Classification of Esophageal Cancer

  1. Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC): This is characterised by the proliferation of abnormal cells lining the esophagus, predominantly located at its beginning and middle segments.
  2. Adenocarcinoma: Originates from the esophagus's gland cells.

Recognising the Risk Factors

Although the precise origins of esophageal cancer remain uncertain, various factors amplify its risk:

  • Age, notably individuals within the 45-70 age bracket.
  • Gender, with men being over three times more susceptible than women.
  • Tobacco consumption, with heightened risks corresponding to prolonged smoking and increased intake.
  • Alcohol consumption, notably elevating SCC risk.
  • Precancerous cellular alterations in the esophagus, known as Barrett’s esophagus, can evolve into adenocarcinoma.
  • Nutritional shortfalls, specifically inadequate fruit and vegetable intake, lead to mineral deficiency.
  • Obesity.

Identifying Symptoms

In its nascent phase, esophageal cancer may not manifest noticeable signs. However, as it progresses, symptoms such as:

  • Challenges in swallowing solid foods, with pain even when consuming water in advanced stages.
  • Sensations of chest discomfort or persistent heartburn.
  • Abdominal bloating and indigestion.
  • Recurring nausea.
  • Choking incidents occured during swallowing.
  • Unexpected weight reduction.
  • Persistent coughing.
  • Throat pain or discomfort behind the breastbone.

Diagnostic Procedures

  • Comprehensive patient history assessment and physical examination.
  • Barium-based imaging, wherein patients consume a barium-water mixture, highlights any abnormalities in subsequent x-ray images.
  • Upper GI endoscopy, facilitating tissue sample extraction for detailed analysis.
  • Endoscopic ultrasound to determine cancer growth and potential spread.
  • Biopsy, typically conducted during a GI endoscopy.
  • Advanced computerised tomography (CT) scans producing three-dimensional imagery, offering superior insights compared to traditional x-rays.

Exploring Treatment Avenues

Esophageal cancer treatment mandates a multi-disciplinary approach involving surgeons, radiologists, and oncologists, all of whom craft an individualised treatment plan considering:

  • The size, location, and nature of the cancer cells.
  • Cancer's stage and spread.
  • Overall health of the patient.

Potential Treatment Modalities

  • Surgical interventions.
  • Chemotherapy.
  • Radiotherapy.