Don’t mistake esophageal cancer for pharyngitis

  In the past six months, Xiao Tang always felt like something stuck in his throat when eating, making it difficult to swallow. At first, she thought it was chronic pharyngitis, and did not take it to heart. She thought it would be better to drink more water, but she didn’t expect her symptoms to get worse and worse. She went to the hospital for an examination and was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. In the early stage, surgery is performed as soon as possible, and the prognosis is good.
  Esophageal cancer is a malignant tumor that originates from the squamous epithelium of the esophageal mucosa, and it is also one of the common malignant tumors that threaten the health of Chinese residents. According to statistics, in 2018, there were about 572,000 new cases of esophageal cancer worldwide, and about 509,000 deaths. More than half of esophageal cancer patients were distributed in China. However, about 85% of patients in my country are found in the middle and late stages. This is because the early manifestations of esophageal cancer lack specificity and are often misdiagnosed as pharyngitis. Therefore, when the following symptoms occur, you should be highly alert to the possibility of esophageal cancer and seek medical attention in time.
  1. Pain behind the sternum and under the xiphoid process: It is more common in early patients, usually pain when swallowing food, and the pain is acupuncture-like or burning. The severity of pain is related to the food you eat. If you eat hard and hot irritating food, the pain will be more serious; if you eat liquid food or warm food, the pain will be relatively mild. It is intermittent at first. When the cancer invades nearby tissues or penetrates, there may be severe and continuous pain. The painful area is often not completely consistent with the lesion in the esophagus. The pain can be temporarily relieved by analgesics, but it will still relapse. When the food enters the stomach, the pain will decrease or disappear.
  2. Choking sensation when swallowing food: Early lesions are mostly local small-scale esophageal swelling, esophageal mucosal congestion, erosion, etc., so when food passes through, there will be a feeling of swallowing discomfort. As the disease progresses further, a feeling of choking will appear, which is more pronounced when eating harder foods or foods that are not easy to chew.
  3. There is a feeling of dryness in the throat: Generally speaking, food will be infiltrated by body fluid when it reaches the esophagus from the mouth, so normal people will not have much discomfort even if they eat dry food. Patients with esophageal cancer may feel a dry throat, even if they eat liquid food, the dryness still exists.
  4. Feeling of a foreign body sensation in the esophagus: About 1/5 of the patients feel a foreign body sensation in the esophagus when swallowing, and things like vegetable leaves, rice grains or pepper shells are attached to the esophagus wall, unable to vomit or swallow. . This manifestation is related to the cancer on the esophageal wall that stimulates deep nerves, but is different from the foreign body sensation caused by pharyngitis. The foreign body sensation in the throat of chronic pharyngitis is obvious when it is quiet, and it decreases or disappears when eating, and then reappears after eating, and when eating There is no blocking sensation; esophageal cancer is a foreign body sensation when swallowing and is often accompanied by post-sternal pain and burning sensation.
  Clinically, the methods for distinguishing esophageal cancer and pharyngitis include barium meal examination, esophageal mesh examination, fiber endoscopy, and chest scan CT and fiber esophagoscopy.
  The occurrence and development of esophageal cancer is a relatively slow process, from dysplasia to cancer, it usually takes several to ten years. If it can be detected at an early stage, the 5-year survival rate after treatment for esophageal cancer is about 90%, while the data in the middle and late stages is only about 20%. At present, the main treatment methods for esophageal cancer include: surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapy. For local esophageal cancer that has not metastasized, surgery is the best way to cure it.
  For the prevention of esophageal cancer, we must first understand the predisposing factors of esophageal cancer, including diet and lifestyle, genetic factors, and infection factors. Long-term stimulation of certain physical and chemical factors and carcinogens in food are related to the occurrence of esophageal cancer, especially excessive nitrites are an important cause of esophageal cancer. The lack of trace elements and minerals such as copper, manganese, iron, zinc and so on in food is also related to the occurrence of esophageal cancer. The lack of vitamins A, E, C, etc. can enhance the carcinogenic effects of nitrites. Smoking, drinking, poor oral hygiene, and family history of esophageal cancer are also risk factors for esophageal cancer. Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is an important pathogenic factor in some areas with a high incidence of esophageal cancer. Therefore, pay attention to healthy eating in daily life, avoid high temperature and irritating food, reduce the intake of pickled food, do not smoke, do not drink, and maintain oral hygiene.