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The oesophagus is part of the digestive system. It carries food from the mouth to the stomach. Cancer in the oesophagus is rare, and it’s more common in men over 60.
Oesophageal cancer is cancer that can begin in any part of the oesophagus (lower, middle or upper).
There are two main types:
It isn’t clear what causes oesophageal cancer. But some things can increase your risk. These include:
It can be difficult to spot the first signs of oesophageal cancer. They may include:
Having these symptoms doesn’t mean you have oesophageal cancer, but it’s best to get them checked by a doctor. The sooner your cancer is detected, the better the chances of treating it successfully.
After discussing your symptoms, your doctor will usually examine your abdomen. They may look for small swellings or signs of oesophageal cancer. You may be referred to a specialist for some of the following tests:
Treatment of oesophageal cancer depends on its location (upper, middle, lower) and how advanced the cancer is. Your specialist doctor will discuss options with you which may include surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
Radiation therapy kills cancer cells. It’s used in the early stages of cancer treatment or after it has started to spread. It can also be used to relieve pain and discomfort from cancer that has spread.
Chemotherapy is medication that treats your cancer. The drugs kill cancer cells, preventing them from dividing and spreading further.
Any procedure including treatments involving radiation carry risks, including skin irritation and associated pain. Before proceeding with a referral for treatment, patients should be advised to seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner. As in any medical procedure, patient experiences and outcomes will vary.