Oesophogeal Cancer

The oesophagus (esophagus in US English)  is what connects the stomach to the throat. Generally there are two forms of cancer which can occur in oesophahus - squamous cell carcinoma (cancerous cells develop in the soft skin covering of the oesophagus) and adenocarcinoma which is more common in people who suffer from acid reflux and Barret’s Oesophagus, which is related to longstanding acid reflux problems.

This is one of the most common forms of cancer. Generally speaking - squamous cell carcinoma affects the “top” of the oesophagus where it meets the throat and adenocarcinoma affects the “bottom” of the oesophageal tract where it joins the stomach. The majority of oesophageal cancer will be squamous cell carcinoma which accounts for 95% of cases.

Symptoms of Oesophageal Cancer

There are several warning signs to look out for which can suggest the cancer of the oesophagus has developed. As with all cancers the symptoms can be fairly nondescript and easily ignored but if they persist for three weeks then we urge you to get to your GP and get checked.

The chances are that you do not have cancer, as the risks are low but it is far better to get checked early than to ignore the problem. Cancer outcomes improve the earlier doctors can catch and start treating the problem. If you have any of these symptoms for a prolonged period of time then please call your GP and make an appointment:

  • pain/difficulty when swallowing

  • heartburn or indigestion which does not go away

  • being sick

  • weight loss

  • a persistent cough

  • pain or discomfort behind the breastbone (in the middle of the rib cage)

  • hoarseness

The symptoms can all be indicators of many diseases and the chances are that you do not have cancer. However if any, or all of these symptoms appear and last for longer than three weeks then please call your GP. You can find your nearest GP here, if you cannot find a GP many hospitals will have walk-in clinics that you can attend too.

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