Posts Tagged ‘esophageal cancer’
I recently heard that an uncle of mine has been suffering from esophageal cancer for about a year and a half. My first reaction was, I’m amazed he has even survived that long. My second reaction was, yet another one in the family with cancer. Finally, it must have been his drinking. I do not recall this uncle smoking or drinking when I was younger, and it was very probable that he didn’t or he managed to hide it well. However, as he got older and underwent a midlife crisis, he became a heavy smoker and especially, drinker. He always appeared at functions drunk or extremely red-faced. That included my wedding and my mother’s funeral.
Alcohol-related illnesses are extremely costly. Similarly, smoking-related illnesses are a huge burden to the medical system. The combination, therefore, is enormous. But, though esophageal cancer is not rare, it does not get the same attention as other alcohol and smoking-related illnesses, namely, cirrhosis and lung cancer, respectively. But cancers of the stomach and esophagus are very common amongst smokers and drinkers. That is because the toxins from cigarettes and alcohol come in direct contact with the lining in the esophagus and stomach, causing damage.
My uncle has undergone surgery to remove the tumour. It is possible that he has managed to survive because all the tumour has been removed. He had had a feeding tube prior to the surgery and it was removed right after. Yet, he still has difficulty swallowing and eats very little. Consequently, he is very weak; though reports are that he is improving somewhat. His immediate family are frustrated because they feel he is not putting in much effort to eat and walk. Yet, it must be remembered that cancer weakens a person, and tumours have been shown to produce a chemical that causes depression.
Surgery is one option for esophageal and stomach cancers. However, sometimes the tumours are too extensive to be entirely removed. As a result, sometimes radiation is offered. Yet, radiation has its own risks, especially scarring and the possibility of radiation-induced tumours. Which ever course is taken, feeding tubes will often be necessary to provide adequate nutrition. With increasing ethical problems regarding feeding tubes, decisions to have the tubes placed and/or removed need to be made early on.
Having been physically and emotionally separated from my family for many years now, I do not have the inside scoop on my uncle’s condition. However, I have been able to make contact with several family members recently and I’m sure they’ll keep me updated. Unfortunately, as with many other cancers, the survival rate is low for esophageal cancer, so I can only look forward to hearing more bad news.
On cold winter days, I love to eat some hot chicken noodle soup. Though winter is officially over, the spring weather can get quite blustery at times, such as today. Hot soup is just the thing to warm your insides as well as your outsides.
But, in my impatience, I sometimes swallow a mouthful of burning liquid. It is painful as it travels down my esophagus, finally settling into my stomach. I always imagine the damage as it is moving downwards. In my mind’s eye, I can see the lining turning red and inflamed. It always worries me. And quite rightly.
Hot liquids are linked to esophageal cancers. Well, very hot, steaming liquids. The kind that is painful. The reason for this is that the heat does injure the esophageal lining. The damaged cells are at risk of become cancerous. It is similar to the case of acid reflux. People suffering from GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) and PUD (peptic ulcer disease) are at risk of esophageal cancers because the stomach acids that reflux into the esophagus cause damage. Tobacco and alcohol also inflict similar damage and smokers and drinkers are at high risk as well.
So if you want to lower your risk of developing esophageal cancer, which is incurable even with surgery, don’t smoke or drink alcohol, and be sure your hot liquids are sufficiently cooled (below 65C or 135F). That includes tea, coffee, soups, etc. But I would also extend that to all foods – make sure you blow on your food to cool it before stuffing it into your mouth. Never swallow it piping hot!