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Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month

Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month

Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month is observed every April to raise awareness about esophageal cancer and to promote early detection, treatment, and prevention of this disease. Esophageal cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the esophagus, a long muscular tube that connects the throat to the stomach. 

According to reports, India has an age-standardized incidence rate (ASR) of 6.5 per 100,000 population for males and 4.2 per 100,000 population for females. This translates into approximately 47,000 new cases each year and 42,000 deaths, making it one of the deadliest forms of cancer.

There are two types of Esophageal Cancer that affect the majority of the population every year i.e. squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma.

Causes and Risk Factors

Esophageal cancer can be caused by various factors, such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, obesity, and acid reflux. 

  1. Age – The chances of getting esophageal cancer increase with age. More than 85% of cases of esophageal cancer are found in people above the age of 55 yrs.
  2. Gender – Men are more likely than women to get esophageal cancer.
  3. Smoking – Smoking one or more packs of cigarettes daily can increase your risk of getting adenocarcinoma in the esophagus.
  4. Excessive Alcohol consumption – Drinking a high amount of alcohol on a regular basis can increase your risk of squamous cell carcinoma in the esophagus.
  5. Obesity – People who are overweight have a higher chance of getting adenocarcinoma of the esophagus.
  6. Diet – A diet high in processed meat can increase the risk of developing esophageal cancer. Also, drinking hot liquids can increase your chances of developing squamous cell carcinoma causing esophagus cancer.
  7. Barrett’s Esophagus – It happens when someone has reflux for a long time. Reflux usually occurs when stomach acid into the lower esophagus stays for a long time.


The symptoms of esophageal cancer can be similar to other gastrointestinal conditions. Esophageal cancer may not cause any noticeable symptoms in its early stages, but as it progresses, it can cause various symptoms, which may include –

  1. Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  2. Pain or discomfort in the chest or throat
  3. Unintentional weight loss
  4. Hoarseness or chronic cough
  5. Regurgitation of food or vomiting
  6. Heartburn or indigestion
  7. Chronic hiccups
  8. Chronic fatigue
  9. Swollen lymph nodes in the neck

These symptoms can be caused by other conditions, and not all people with esophageal cancer experience them. However, if you have any of these symptoms, especially if they persist for over a few weeks, it’s important to talk to your doctor. Early detection of esophageal cancer can improve treatment outcomes, so it’s important to seek medical attention if you have any concerns.

Treatment Options

The treatment for esophageal cancer depends on the stage and location of cancer, as well as the patient’s overall health. The main treatments for esophageal cancer include –

1. Surgery – Surgery is the most common treatment for esophageal cancer, especially in the early stages. The goal of surgery is to remove the cancerous tissue and a margin of healthy tissue surrounding it. The type of surgery depends on the location and extent of cancer.

  • Esophagectomy – a surgical procedure to remove some or most of the esophagus. If the cancer is not spread far beyond the esophagus.
  • Lymph node removal – a surgery to remove nearby lymph nodes during the operation. It is first checked in the lab to check if they have cancer cells. Around 15 lymph nodes are removed during the procedure.

2. Radiation therapy – Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It may be used alone or in combination with other treatments. Two types of radiation therapy are used to treat esophageal cancer –

  • External-beam radiation therapy (EBRT) The radiation is focused on the cancer from a machine outside the body. The radiation treatments depend on the location and type of cancer.
  • Internal-beam radiation therapy (IBRT) A long-flexible tube called an endoscope is passed down the throat to place radioactive material very close to the cancer.

3. Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It may be given before or after surgery, or in combination with radiation therapy. Two types of chemotherapy are performed to treat Esophageal Cancer –

  • Adjuvant Chemotherapy – It is performed after surgery that kills any cancer cells that were left behind or have spread to the esophagus but are in small amounts to see in imaging tests.
  • Non-adjuvant Chemotherapy – It is performed before surgery to shrink the tumor so it can be easily removed with less extensive surgery.

4. Targeted therapy – Targeted therapy drugs work by targeting specific molecules that are involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells. These drugs are typically used in combination with chemotherapy. Esophagus cancer has too much HER2 protein on the surface of the cells causing the spread of cancer cells. In such cases, drugs such as trastuzumab, fam-trastuzumab, and Ramucirumab are prescribed that kill HER2-positive cancers.
5. Immunotherapy– Immunotherapy drugs stimulate the immune system to attack cancer cells. They may be used alone or in combination with other treatments. Immune checkpoint inhibitors drugs are used to target the checkpoint proteins that can help in restoring the immune response to fight against esophagus cancer cells.
6. Palliative care – Palliative care focuses on relieving symptoms and improving the quality of life for patients with advanced or incurable esophageal cancer. It may include pain management, nutrition support, and emotional support to cure the cancer.

However, the choice of treatment depends on various factors, such as the stage and location of the cancer, the patient’s overall health, and their preferences. It’s important to discuss the options with a doctor or a team of specialists to determine the best treatment plan for each individual case.


On this Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month, Uhapo is grateful for the opportunity to shine a light by reaching out to the masses, so that they can learn enough about esophageal cancer to make decisions about your care.

We invite you to join us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram to raise awareness of this deadliest form of cancer by supporting someone living with esophagus cancer, who has fought the challenges of cancer with courage and strength.

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