Oesophageal cancer: Early signs may be attributed to other digestive issues - what to spot
The NHS says oesophageal cancer is a cancer that's found anywhere in the oesophagus, sometimes called the gullet or food pipe. The health body says: "There are many possible symptoms of oesophageal cancer, but they might be hard to spot." Cancer Research UK says most people are over the age of 60 when they are diagnosed, though this is not always the case.
The NHS says they can affect your digestion, such as:
- Having problems swallowing (dysphagia)
- Feeling or being sick
- Heartburn or acid reflux
- Symptoms of indigestion, such as burping a lot.
Cancer Research says: "You should see your doctor if you have difficulty swallowing, or you have symptoms that are unusual for you or that won't go away."Your symptoms are unlikely to be cancer but it is important to get them checked by a doctor."
GETTY woman holding throat
The charity says: "You may regurgitate food - this is when food comes back up soon after you swallow it. It usually starts with food like meat and bread. You may start to bring up soft foods such as mashed potato, drinks and saliva if you don't have treatment."
It adds that a cough that won't go away or that happens when you try to eat can be caused by oesophageal cancer.
Cancer Research also notes: "Your voice can become raspy or croaky. It's not a common symptom and can be caused by other harmless conditions."
It adds: "Your poo may be darker - almost black - if cancer is making your oesophagus bleed. This is uncommon. You can get darker poo if you're taking iron tablets."
Guts UK says oesophageal cancer is the ninth most common cancer worldwide.
It says the number of people diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in Northern Europe is approximately 5.5 people in 100,000.
"Important risk factors for cancer of the oesophagus include smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, particularly spirits," it adds.
Moreover, seven in 20 oesophageal cancers are caused by smoking.
Guts UK says: "A combination of both smoking and spirit-drinking considerably increases the risk.
"The risk of this kind of cancer is also potentially increased for people who consume their drinks very hot."
Nonetheless, the Mayo Clinic says it is not exactly clear what causes the cancer.
It notes it occurs when cells in the oesophagus develop changes in their DNA.
"The changes make cells grow and divide out of control. The accumulating abnormal cells form a tumour in the oesophagus that can grow to invade nearby structures and spread to other parts of the body.
"You can take steps to reduce your risk of the cancer, according to the charity:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. Add a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables to your diet.Maintain a healthy weight.
- If you are overweight or obese, talk to your doctor about strategies to help you lose weight. Aim for a slow and steady weight loss of one or two pounds a week.
Reference: Daily Express: Harriet Whitehead
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