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Esophageal cancer

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From MayoClinic.com

Esophageal Cancer, is a cancer that develops in the esophagus.
From there, the cancer spreads outward.

Because esophageal cancer rarely causes symptoms in its early stages, it often has spread to the outer wall of the esophagus or to nearby lymph nodes before it's diagnosed. The most common symptom, which usually occurs late in the disease, is difficulty swallowing and a sensation of food sticking in your throat or chest.

Although doctors don't know all of the causes of esophageal cancer, certain factors greatly increase your risk. Among these are smoking, long-term alcohol abuse, and acid reflux, a condition that occurs when stomach acids back up into the lower part of your esophagus. Even mild chronic heartburn - the kind of acid reflux you relieve with antacids - can make you more prone to esophageal cancer. A diet lacking in fruits, vegetables and certain nutrients also increases your risk.

Signs and symptoms

It's unusual to have signs and symptoms of esophageal cancer in the early stages of the disease. When cancer is more advanced, you may experience:

  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia). Although this is the most common symptom of esophageal cancer, it usually doesn't appear until a tumor has grown large enough to narrow your esophagus to about half its normal width. At this point, meat and bread may be nearly impossible to eat, and you may unconsciously change your eating habits, chewing more slowly and carefully, for example, or switching to softer foods. But in time, you may even have trouble swallowing liquids.

  • Severe, unintentional weight loss. As eating becomes more difficult, you may not consume enough calories to maintain your weight. In addition, cancer in general can cause weight loss and muscle wasting because it changes the way your body metabolizes nutrients.

  • Pain in your throat, in your mid-chest or between your shoulder blades. Although not common, you sometimes might have pain when you swallow or discomfort or burning behind your breastbone.

  • Hoarseness, a chronic cough and sometimes coughing of blood. These symptoms usually don't appear until cancer is quite advanced.



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