Esophagus cancer growing rapidly

January 2, 2008 8:20:31 PM PST
Medical experts tell us that cancer of the esophagus is one of the fastest rising cancers in this country, and, it's often difficult to diagnosis until it's too late.

There are about 15,000 new cases every year.

Just this morning Dr. Ram Rakhiani with Camino Medical Group performed surgery on a patient with esophageal cancer.

There are two types of cancer that can develop in the esophagus. One triggered by smoking and heavy alcohol use is on the decrease.

The other related to acid reflux is up dramatically. It's called adenocarcinoma.

It's caused when acid chronically splashes from the stomach into the esophagus.

"Over time the lining of the lower part of the esophagus changes to more of the stomach type lining and this lining is more resistant to the acid but it is also pre-cancerous," said Dr. Ram Rakhiani from El Camino Medical Group.

Cancer of the esophagus can be effectively treated if it is caught in an early stage. Unfortunately a diagnosis often comes only after the condition has progressed.

Dr. Shyamali Singhal is director of the Cancer Center at El Camino Hospital. She says symptoms of esophageal cancer manifest at the later stages of the disease.

"If you start to have trouble swallowing, you have a sensation that food is sticking in your throat that you have to wash your food down with water," said Dr. Shyamali Singhal from El Camino Hospital Cancer Center.

A diagnosis would result in a host of standard treatment options including chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Because of the often late diagnosis, esophageal cancer is one of the toughest to fight.

"Overall if you take 100 people who have been diagnosed with the five year survival, the number of people living in five years is only about ten percent which is the lowest of all the cancers out there," said Dr. Rakhiani.

Medical professionals caution any individual can beat those odds if the cancer is detected early.