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Oesophagus Cancer

What is Oesophagus Cancer?

Listed amongst the 6th most common cancers in the world, oesophageal cancer is a malignancy that develops in the oesophagus, which serves as a passage for food from the mouth to the stomach.

What are the symptoms that you need to look out for?

Symptoms that point towards the prevalence of oesophagus cancer include:

  • Dysphagia, which refers to the inability to swallow food normally
  • Unintended loss of weight
  • Persistent chest pain
  • Burning sensation in the chest
  • Coughing
  • Hoarseness in the throat
    • What causes Oesophagus Cancer?

      Oesophageal cancer is a result of undesired mutations in the DNA of the oesophageal cells, which compel them to grow and multiply very rapidly. These cells gradually accumulate and result in the formation of a tumour.

      What are the various risk factors associated with Oesophagus Cancer?

      Various factors that increase the risks of esophageal cancer include:

      • GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease
      • Excessive smoking
      • Being overweight or obese
      • Precancerous changes in the oesophageal cells
      • Increased alcohol intake
      • Bile reflux
      • Swallowing difficulties
      • Unhealthy dietary habits
      • Undergoing radiation therapy for the organs in the thoracic or abdominal cavity

      Screening and diagnosis

      Various modalities available for the diagnosis of oesophageal cancer include:

      • Barium swallow study – The patient is asked to swallow a liquid barium solution, after which x-rays are taken. The barium coats the oesophagus from within and highlights any structural abnormalities during the x-ray.
      • Endoscopy – This involves the use of an endoscope to visualize the patient’s oesophagus and look for any lesions or abnormalities.
      • Biopsy – Biopsy involves the collection of a tissue sample and examining it thoroughly for any traces of cancer.


      Surgery – The aim of the surgery is to remove the tumour along with some healthy tissues, to negate the risks of recurrence.

      • Surgical removal of small tumours is done via a minimally invasive approach, with the help of an endoscope
      • Oesophagectomy involves the removal of a portion of the oesophagus along with the tumour
      • Oesophagogastrectomy refers to the removal of the oesophagus along with the lymph nodes and a large section of the stomach.

      Chemotherapy – It uses special drugs, that are given orally or intravenously, to target rapidly-growing cancerous cells. Chemotherapy may also be used in combination with radiation therapy to treat cancers that have not yet metastasized. This is referred to as chemoradiation.

      Radiation therapy – It used x-ray beams of high intensity to target the cancerous cells. This may be given before the surgery, to reduce the size of the tumour, and after the surgery to destroy cancerous cells that were left behind during the surgery. These radiations may be given externally, using a special radiation machine, or from within, using certain radiation-emitting substances.

      Immunotherapy – It involves the use of certain drugs that help to boost the body’s immune system and is usually recommended to patients with advanced oesophageal cancer.

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