So…What is Esophageal Cancer Anyway?

February 26, 2011

Our journey of discovery through the medical system.

Esophageal Cancer – A malignant tumor of the esophagus usually caused by long-term irritation. Irritants include but are not limited to: smoking, Barrett’s esophagitis, alcohol, drinking extremely hot liquids, very spicy foods, heartburn/acid reflux (GERD).

That is the ‘official’ definition. To the official causes I would add heavily carbonated soft drinks, especially the ones with high acid content. Ted was convinced that his fondness for Coke and salt & vinegar chips was a large contributing factor in the development of his esophageal cancer.  I can’t even drink Coke because it burns my throat, and I love them but salt & vinegar chips burn after a while too. Of course, anything you overdo will have negative effects, and Ted was a very heavy Coke drinker.

The reason the cancer is so hard to cure is because it is aggressive. It grows quickly and spreads quickly. Little pieces of it are shed off the main tumor and travel through the lymph nodes and blood stream to every part of the body. They are particularly spread through the lymphatic system, where they wreak havoc with the flow of fluids throughout the body; the digestive system, after all, it’s ‘just down the line’; the lungs, because they are right next door; the liver and kidneys, the heart, a neighbor; and even the brain, not sure why, but that is one of the first places the doctors scanned.

Adding to the agressiveness of this form of cancer is the construction of the esophagus itself. It is a tube inside a tube. It works kind of like your hand milking a cow, so as the cells are released from the tumor the pumping action of the esophagus assists in the spread of the cancer – especially up and down the esophagus. The cancer generally starts as a small tumor on one side and grows around in a donut shape to circle the esophagus, shedding cells as it grows. Once it is connected it begins to fill the ‘hole’ and shuts off the esophagus causing a back-up of food and a lot of pain. This is usually your first sign that you actually have esophageal cancer.

The first sign of Ted’s cancer occurred on February 3, 2007. I will never forget the date because it was at our Wedding Anniversary Dinner.

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3 Responses to “So…What is Esophageal Cancer Anyway?”

  1. Deb Atwood said

    what a sad way to remember the date…

  2. Mark Valcour said

    Once again, a very clear description of how this form of cancer may develope, and psesent itself.
    I ‘saw’ the story I referred to in the last posting on the 11 PM national TV news, on either CBC or CTV, approximately Feb. 21st. As I am surrounded by ‘news hounds’ every weekday, I’ll endeavor to get one or two of them to track down this story for you, by say – Tuesday…

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