Esophageal Cancer Month: An Aggressive Disease

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(Courtesy of Awareness Depot)
April is Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month. The American Association for Cancer Research estimated over 16,000 people in the United States died from the disease in 2020.

    Cancer. The Big C. The dreaded word no one wants to hear. Recognized by its periwinkle-colored ribbon, April is Esophageal Cancer Awareness Month. This aggressive disease accounts for about 1% of all cancers diagnosed in this country and there is no cure.
    According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 1.8 million people were diagnosed with cancer in 2020. Lung cancer, the deadliest type, accounted for 22% of the cancer-related deaths.
    Esophageal cancer is rarely curable, leaving patients with palliative, rather than curative, care treatment options.
    Risk factors include age, obesity, tobacco and alcohol use. According to PRNewswire, “In 2020, gastric and esophageal cancers combined to kill over 1.3 million people worldwide — making it the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths.”
    Cancer of the esophagus, most often found in men older than the age of 50, often remains undetected until symptoms reach an advanced stage. By then, the five year survival rate is less than 20%. Indigestion, heartburn, coughing and swallowing difficulties, all esophageal cancer symptoms, can be overlooked, ignored or attributed to other benign causes.
    Self diagnosis can lead to taking over-the-counter medicines for acid reflux or mild cold symptoms. In the meantime, the cancer continues to grow and can spread to other organs.
    April is also Testicular and Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month.

Editor’s Note: After being treated for acid reflux and bronchitis for years, the writer’s husband was diagnosed with Stage IV Esophageal cancer. Given a prognosis of eight months to live, he and Kathy continued to sail and travel for 21 months before cancer won the battle in 2012.

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