Esophageal cancer is cancer that occurs in the esophagus — a long, hollow tube that runs from your throat to your stomach. Your esophagus helps move the food you swallow from the back of your throat to your stomach to be digested.
Esophageal cancer usually begins in the cells that line the inside of the esophagus. Esophageal cancer can occur anywhere along the esophagus. More men than women get esophageal cancer.
Esophageal cancer is the sixth most common cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Incidence rates vary within different geographic locations. In some regions, higher rates of esophageal cancer may be attributed to tobacco and alcohol use or particular nutritional habits and obesity.
Esophageal cancer is classified according to the type of cells that are involved. The type of esophageal cancer you have helps determine your treatment options. Types of esophageal cancer include:
Signs and symptoms of esophageal cancer include:
Early esophageal cancer typically causes no signs or symptoms.
It's not exactly clear what causes esophageal cancer.
Esophageal cancer occurs when cells in the esophagus develop changes (mutations) in their DNA. The changes make cells grow and divide out of control. The accumulating abnormal cells form a tumor in the esophagus that can grow to invade nearby structures and spread to other parts of the body.
It's thought that chronic irritation of your esophagus may contribute to the changes that cause esophageal cancer. Factors that cause irritation in the cells of your esophagus and increase your risk of esophageal cancer include:
As esophageal cancer advances, it can cause complications, such as:
Tests and procedures used to diagnose esophageal cancer include:
Once a diagnosis of esophageal cancer is confirmed, your doctor may recommend additional tests to determine whether your cancer has spread to your lymph nodes or to other areas of your body.
Tests may include:
Your doctor uses the information from these procedures to assign a stage to your cancer. The stages of esophageal cancer are indicated by Roman numerals that range from 0 to IV, with the lowest stages indicating that the cancer is small and affects only the superficial layers of your esophagus. By stage IV, the cancer is considered advanced and has spread to other areas of the body.
The cancer staging system continues to evolve and is becoming more complex as doctors improve cancer diagnosis and treatment. Your doctor uses your cancer stage to select the treatments that are right for you.
You can take steps to reduce your risk of esophageal cancer. For instance:
Did you know that there are certain foods that can lower the risk of developing esophageal cancer? Read more to find out which foods can help you achieve this.
Tea, especially green tea has powerful anti-oxidization properties that help protect you from esophageal cancer. Black tea is also a good source of these anti-oxidants so if you cannot access green tea, you can still get the same protection from the normal tea. Various studies have shown that people who regularly consume tea are less likely to develop cancer than those who don’t. This is because anti-oxidants in tea help prevent cell damage by unstable molecules known as free radicals. These free radicals are stabilized when they interact with anti-oxidants and rendered harmless.
Vegetables have long been known to have a host of benefits to the body. A diet that is rich in vegetables is usually low in calories and thus prevents risk factors such as obesity. Secondly, particular vegetables such as Kales, Brussel sprouts, and many others contain nutrients that help protect the body from many different types of cancers including cancer of the esophagus. Ensure that you eat vegetables in every serving and vary the type of vegetable you take in order to tap into the health benefits of various types of vegetables.
Just like vegetables, fruits have massive benefits to the body and their consumption can significantly lower the risk of cancer. Firstly, fructose that is found in fruits is a healthier alternative to processed sugar that is found in food items such as fizzy drinks and cakes. Secondly, fruits are generally rich in nutrients, vitamins, and anti-oxidants, all of which contribute to minimizing cell mutations that lead to esophageal cancer. When selecting which fruits to take, focus on fruits that do not have high citric acid content. Fruits such as mangoes, bananas, peaches, and avocados have low or no citric acid and thus are great to include in your day-to-day diet. While you can take citric fruits (fruits high in citric acid), keep the intake of these at a minimum.
Whole grain foods are an excellent addition to any diet but are particularly powerful at preventing esophageal cancer. This is because food items with whole grains are rich in fiber that is known to lower the risk of cancer as well as help an individual maintain healthy body weight. Food items that are rich in fiber include oats, sweet potatoes among others. Others include rye and other whole grain foods.
In tests conducted on mice, scientists found that feeding black or navy beans to mice lowered their risk of developing cancer. It has also been observed that there is a lowered incidence of esophageal cancer among people who primarily eat plant protein (such as beans) as opposed to animal protein. A few servings of beans in a diet every week can provide excellent protection against the occurrence of this type of cancer.
For years, cinnamon has been known as a super-food whose anti-inflammation properties lower the risk of various types of cancers including cancer of the esophagus. In addition to this, cinnamon reduces blood sugar and promotes the overall health of the body. You can tap into the health benefits of cinnamon by adding one or two teaspoons of cinnamon every day to help protect you from esophageal cancer.
Nuts are excellent sources of fiber, vitamins and many other nutrients. They have also been identified as having cancer-fighting properties. In addition, nuts are great at helping one maintain healthy eating habits as they are a healthy substitute to snacking. Nuts also help an individual eat less food as they have a filling effect. To tap into the cancer-fighting benefits of nuts, ensure that you take a handful of nuts every day especially as a replacement to your usual snack.
Olive oil is one of the central tenets of the Mediterranean diet and is generally regarded as a very healthy food. Studies around the world indicate that countries with high consumption of olive oil tend to have significantly reduced incidences of cancers including esophageal cancer. You can tap into the benefits of olive oil by substituting your usual cooking oil with olive oil. Alternatively, you can use olive oil as a marinade for meat or as part of your salad dressing.
Turmeric is another food that has long been associated with improved health. This is because it has both anti-oxidization and anti-inflammatory properties, all of which help lower the incidence of cancers such as esophageal cancer. You can add turmeric to food as a spice and can boost its absorption in the body by combining it with a dash of black pepper.
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