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What Is Esophageal Cancer

Updated on March 4, 2016

Esophageal cancer refers to cancer that begins in the tissues of the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube through which food moves from the throat to the stomach. According to the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 17,460 new cases of esophageal cancer will be diagnoses in the United States in 2012, and approximately 15,070 deaths will be due to the disease.

The most common types of this disease are squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. Several factors can raise your risk for developing these cancers. Age and gender contribute strongly to esophageal cancer riskā€”most people diagnosed are aged 65 or older, and men have a risk three times higher than women. People who smoke and/or drink more than three alcoholic drinks per day also have a heightened risk. Other factors linked to esophageal cancer risk include a diet lacking fruits and vegetables, obesity, and acid reflux.

In its earliest stages, esophageal cancer may not cause noticeable symptoms. However, as the cancer becomes more severe, symptoms might include: pain in the chest and back or pain when swallowing; weight loss; food that gets stuck when swallowing and which comes back up; heart burn; or a persistent or hoarse cough. A medical provider can help you determine if these symptoms are those of esophageal cancer, or another condition.

Following a diagnosis of the disease, your doctor will stage the cancer to determine its severity. Treatment depends on where the cancer is located within the esophagus, the extent to which it has spread, your overall health, and your symptoms.

Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy; many people will benefit from a combination of these therapies. However, because the condition is difficult to treat with current therapies, patients may be advised to consider joining a clinical trial with the goal of developing new and better treatment options.

How to Be a Courteous Smoker

Cigarette etiquette is a very important part of social smoking.

For smokers

  1. Don't smoke inside without permission.
  2. Watch where your secondhand smoke goes. It slowly kills people of all ages on the streets, not just kids. If you would like to truly be doing a victimless crime, making a choice only for yourself, and not to mention, not look bad and improve the image of smokers, never smoke on the streets. There is a difference between illegal and immoral.
  3. Do not smoke while standing near an open doorway, as your second hand smoke will trail into the building.
  4. Obey local smoking laws too.
  5. If someone asks to bum a smoke, give them one. Bumming a smoke is a good way to meet people.
  6. Conversely, if someone offers you a cigarette, you don't have to take it.
  7. If you light up in the presence of a person who isn't smoking, offer a cigarette unless you are sure they are a nonsmoker. Don't insist that anyone smoke.
  8. When lighting someone else's cigarette (in addition to yours) with a lighter, light theirs first. If you are using a match, light yours first. This has to do with inhaling chemicals from the match and naturally, being courteous, you should inhale those.
  9. If in a group that contains nonsmokers (that care), stand downwind.
  10. Never blow smoke in anyone's face.

For non-smokers

  • - Unless it is a child/spouse/loved one, you have no right to criticize other people's lifestyle choices. The health risks are well known and do not need to be reiterated. However, you did not chose to smoke, and therefore do not want to inhale all the toxins and carcinogens contained in secondhand smoke, so you have a full right to tell them not to smoke around you. Hassling a smoker is like hassling a person for being overweight or of a different religion (both are choices with negative consequences in your eyes), except for the fact that they affect others around them. Don't do it.
  • - A small amount of second hand smoke may aggravate your allergies but is not going to kill you unless you have asthma or cardio-pulmonary disease.
  • - Do not say, "I told you so" when visiting a cancer victim or COPD patient.
  • - Don't start smoking.


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