Thousands of people in the United States are affected by esophageal cancer every year. Esophageal cancer is when there is a malignant tumor on the esophagus. This type of cancer can be effectively treated provided that it is promptly diagnosed. If the doctors fail to properly diagnose the cancer the patient then has a lower chance survival. Typically, symptoms of this cancer begin to manifest once the cancer has become advanced, making it hard to cure. If esophageal cancer is misdiagnosed or goes undiagnosed, it will often spread to the stomach, lungs, or liver.
Symptoms of esophageal cancer include:
- Burning sensation that is similar to heart burn
- Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
- Hoarse or raspy cough
- Nausea, vomiting, or food regurgitation
- Odynophagia (painful swallowing)
- Pain behind the sternum
- Substantial weight loss
Types of Esophageal Cancer
There are two main types of esophageal cancer:
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma – this is the most common type of esophageal cancer, accounting for 90% - 95% of cases worldwide. It is associated with alcohol and tobacco consumption.
- Adenocarcinoma – in the United States, this type of esophageal cancer accounts to about 50% - 80% of cases. It is commonly found in patients who have a history of Barrett’s esophagus and gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD). These two conditions are characterized by chronic acid exposure, and is believed to be linked to esophageal cancer.
Esophageal cancer is often mistaken for other medical conditions, including:
- Acid reflux
- Esophageal fistula
- Esophageal tuberculosis
There are treatment options, other than surgery, available that pose minimal risk of complications to remove precancerous lesions in the esophagus. The longer the cancer progresses, the more likely that the only option left to patients will be surgical. These surgeries are often open rather than laparoscopic, which radically lowers the chances of long term recovery.
If you believe that you or a loved one has been injured due to delayed diagnosis or failure to diagnose esophageal cancer, you should contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible.
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