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April is Esophageal cancer awareness month!

 

ESOPHAGEAL CANCER

 

Two types of Esophageal Cancer: 
  1. Adenocarcinoma, the type most common in the western world, which usually results from long lasting reflux disease.
  2. Squamous Cell Carcinoma, which is often linked to smoking and drinking alcohol.

 

Esophageal Cancer is deadly and increasing rapidly

The type of Esophageal Cancer caused by reflux disease is increasing a faster rate than any other cancer in the U.S. Sadly only those who catch theur cancer at the earliest stages are likely to be cured. So finding the cancer early is very important.

Only one in five patients diagnosed with Esophageal Cancer will survive five years because it is most often caught at late stages. The disease is often only discovered when patients have a hard time swallowing because of a large tumor in their esophagus.

Though considered a rare disease. Esophageal Cancer takes more American lives each year than melanoma skin cancer or cervical cancer.

 

Screening for Barrett’s Esophagus and Esophageal Cancer

The best way to diagnose Barrett’s Esophagus or Esophageal Cancer is to look in the the esophagus with a special camera. This procedure is called and EGD or “Uppder Endoscopy”

A doctor will pass a flexible tube with a light and camera on the end through the mouth and into the esophagus and stomach. Patients are given medicine to help them avoid discomfort and they sleep though the procedure.

 

Talk to your doctor about your concerns if:

  • You have more than occasional heartburn symptoms
  • You have experienced heartburn in the past, but the symptoms have gone away
  • You have any pain or difficulty swallowing
  • You have a family history of Barrett’s Esophagus or Esophageal Cancer
  • You have an ongoing, unexplained cough
  • You have been speaking with a hoarse voice over several weeks
  • You have a long lasting, unexplained sore throat
  • You cough or choke when you lie down

 

If esophageal cancer is caught in the early stages, or even before it becomes cancer; patients have a good chance for survival.

That is why it is important to pay attention to symptoms of GERD.

 

BARRETT’S ESOPHAGUS

 

Pre-Cancerous changes in the esophagus

Acid and other digestive juice from the stomach can cause damage to the lining of the esophagus. In some cases, that causes pre-cancerous cells to form. That is known as Barrett’s esophagus.

You are more likely to have this condition if you have had GERD for a long period of time. Barretts’s esophagus occurs more often in men than women and is more common in middle aged or older people.

GERD and Barretts Esophagus

What is GERD or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease?

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) happens when food and liquid from the stomach move back up into the esophagus, causing irritation of the lining of the esophagus.

How do I know if I have GERD?

Here are some symptoms of GERD

  • Heartburn or burning in the chest*
  • Regurgitation (bringing food back up)
  • Chest pain*
  • Nausea after eating
  • Sour taste in mouth
  • Coughing, choking or wheezing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Belching or burping excessively
  • Hoarseness or change in voice
  • Sore throat
  • Feeling that food is stuck behind the breastbone

 

*may be a sign of heart problems; do not delay evaulation

 

 

BARRETT’S ESOPHAGUS

 

Pre-Cancerous changes in the esophagus

Acid and other digestive juice from the stomach can cause damage to the lining of the esophagus. In some cases, that causes pre-cancerous cells to form. That is known as Barrett’s esophagus.

You are more likely to have this condition if you have had GERD for a long period of time. Barretts’s esophagus occurs more often in men than women and is more common in middle aged or older people.

No symptoms; significant risks

There are no symptoms that someone has barrett’s esophagus. When developing Barrett’s esophagus patients believe they are getting better because symptoms of GERD sometimes get better or even disappear. This may lead to a false sense of security. But even without symptoms they can feel, those with Barrett’s esophagus still have a much greater risk of developing esophageal cancer.

Barrett’s esophagus may never go away, even with medication or diet changes. This is why doctors often check those patients on a regular basis to make sure the condition isn’t getting worse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screening Saves Lives!

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is currently the 3rd most common cancer diagnosed in women and men, and is the 3rd leading cause of cancer related deaths in both. The good news is, the death rate from the CRC has been dropping over the last few decades! A leading factor in the decline is that colorectal polyps are being found through SCREENING colonoscopy, and removed before they can develop into cancers; OR they are being discovered early enough to effectively treat the disease.

The early stages of CRC may present no signs or symptoms at all. Some of the more common symptoms you may experience are:

  • Changes in your bowel habits – diarrhea or constipation that does not go away
  • Dark patches of blood in or on your stool; or long, thin, “pencil” stools
  • Bleeding or cramping from the rectum
  • Feeling like you can not empty your bowels completely
  • Unexplained fatigue and/or weight loss
  • Pelvic pain
  • Anemia

Other individual health practices that may increase the risk of developing CRC are smoking, being overweight, and/or a family history of polyps or colon cancer, just to name a few.

The Affordable Care Act requires any health plan started on or after September 23, 2010 to cover CRC screening tests 100%. Verify this with your provider. If you are 50 years old or older (or younger with a family history of colon cancer/polyps), add this to your “must do” list. We encourage you to take your health, and your life very seriously!

 

Normal colon

Colon polyp

Colon mass

Diverticulosis