Spreading awareness and esophageal cancer

Annie Lane, syndicated columnist

Dear Readers: Though I do my best to keep my personal life out of this column, I’m writing today about something that has deeply impacted me. A person very close to me was recently diagnosed with stage IV esophageal cancer. Unfortunately, that’s the stage at which this relatively rare type of cancer is typically caught, due to its lack of obvious symptoms in earlier stages. I’d like to use this platform to share some information about the risk factors and symptoms of esophageal cancer, in the hope that it might help even one person.

The American Cancer Society estimates that about 16,080 people will die from esophageal cancer this year, and that 17,650 new cases will be diagnosed. Men over 55 are the population most likely to develop esophageal cancer. Other risk factors include: tobacco and alcohol use, especially when combined; gastroesophageal reflux disease; Barrett’s esophagus (a condition that occurs following years of acid reflux); injury of the esophagus; and frequently drinking hot liquids, which can damage the tissue lining the esophagus.

The following are the most commonly reported symptoms of esophageal cancer according to the Esophageal Cancer Awareness Association: difficult or painful swallowing, weight loss, blood in the stool, loss of appetite, feeling very tired, heartburn, pain in the throat or back and hoarseness or coughing. Additional symptoms noted by the American Cancer Society are hiccups, bone pain and bleeding into the esophagus. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, talk to your doctor today. And if you believe you might be at a high risk for developing esophageal cancer, talk to your doctor about screening options. According to the American Cancer Society, “Many experts recommend that people with a high risk of esophageal cancer, such as those with Barrett’s esophagus, have upper endoscopy regularly.”

For more information, please visit the Esophageal Cancer Awareness Association website at www.ecaware.org.

Editor’s note: Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com. To find out more about Annie Lane and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.