April is Esophageal Cancer Awareness month. This month let’s spread awareness of this growing form of cancer by identifying causes and preventative measures.
Esophageal Cancer is cancer that occurs in the long “food pipe” tube that runs from your throat to your stomach. Esophageal cancer affects more men than women. It is the sixth most common cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Esophageal cancer may be caused by tobacco use, alcohol use, or poorly controlled acid reflux. Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid irritates the food pipe lining. Acid reflux may be noticed with belching or when lying down.
As with anything that effects our health, it is important to know signs and symptoms of things that are abnormal and common signs seen in esophageal cancer. Coughing or hoarseness, chest pressure or burning, worsening ingestion or heartburn, and difficulty swallowing are early symptoms to discuss with your healthcare provider. The feeling of constantly having something stuck in your throat will gradually worsen and may or may not cause pain. Chronic irritation of the esophagus may contribute to changes that cause esophageal cancer. Irritation may be caused by smoking, GERD or acid reflux, drinking alcohol, drinking very hot liquids, or difficulty swallowing.
You can take steps to reduce your risk of esophageal cancer! Alcohol consumption should be in moderation, if at all. Tobacco use pollutes the esophagus as well as the lungs. Repeated irritation and burning of the esophagus from alcohol or tobacco is a risk factor that may be controlled.
Regular visits with your healthcare provider are a great way to assess for any underlying health conditions. Your health matters! Stay healthy and be well!
Written by Nicole Baldwin, FNP-C Family Nurse Practitioner