In 2018, esophageal cancer was ranked the 4th deadliest cancer, claiming the lives of 15,690 American lives. With only 16,940 new diagnoses made each year, esophageal cancer ranks as a fairly insignificant cancer in terms of the number of patients affected (less than 1%)— to put it in perspective, there were 222,500 new cases of lung cancer and 135,430 new cases of colorectal cancer diagnosed. However, the 5-year survival rate is less than 21%, which means that it claims the lives of nearly 80% of those who are diagnosed. These numbers seem horrifying — and they are — but, there are things we can do to help.
Esophageal cancer has a very low survival rate, currently, because of the stage in which it is typically diagnosed. When esophageal cancer is identified and treated when it is localized and isolated in the esophagus only, the 5-year survival rate climbs to 45%. However, many people are not diagnosed until the cancer has spread, or metastasized, to the surrounding tissue including lymph nodes and organs. Once esophageal cancer metastasized to regional body parts, the survival rate drops to near 24%. And, when the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body — blood, lungs, brain — the survival rate plummets to less than 5%.
Join us in today’s discussion about the 4th deadliest cancer and how we can improve outcomes.
The first step to surviving esophageal cancer is by preventing it. Esophageal cancer is not completely preventable, but there are things that we can do to help discourage cancerous cells from affecting the mucosal tissue of your esophagus. You can start by living a healthy lifestyle that includes a nutritional diet, moderate exercise, and not smoking or consuming excess alcohol. Reduce your intake of caustic substances including soda and coffee. If you have disorders that induce vomiting or cause heartburn, aggressively treat these conditions to reduce the amount of gastric content that makes its way into your esophagus.
Knowing your risk factors and getting early screening done is crucial to improving outcomes. Risk factors of esophageal cancer include:
- Being male — men are diagnosed with esophageal cancer four times as often as women.
- Aged over 55 — 85% of cases are diagnosed in people over the age of 55.
- A diet high in processed meats.
- Obesity/ overweight
- Alcohol use
- Tobacco use
- Barrett’s esophagus
- Frequent exposure to chemicals
- Bulimia Nervosa
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) of the throat
- Plummer-Vinson syndrome
If you suffer from any of the conditions listed above, you should talk to your physician about early diagnostic testing. An endoscopy, or other diagnostic testing options, can reveal dysplastic cells before they become cancerous or metastasize to other areas of your body. When caught early, esophageal cancer is treatable. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors and detection methods. For more information, read our previous post on our diagnostic testing options.
Effective treatment for esophageal cancer will depend on the staging of the cancer and whether or not it has metastasized. Some treatment options include surgical removal of the tumor or cancerous cells, electrocoagulation, cryotherapy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy. If you suffer from reflux or esophageal disorders that contribute to the cancer, it is critical to find an effective treatment to prevent further damage.
At Southern Reflux Center, we aggressively treat reflux to help prevent dangerous outcomes including esophageal cancer. Our treatment plan begins with early diagnosis using a variety of identification tools to determine the cause of your reflux. Then, we correct the root cause of your reflux rather than simply medicating you. If you suffer from reflux, contact us to schedule your consultation for a better quality of life and outcome. Connect with us online or contact our clinic staff to schedule your evaluation today.