Thursday, May 17, 2012

Esophageal Cancer Facts

Esophageal cancer took the life of an amazing husband, father, son, brother, grandson, cousin and friend - my husband, Keith Pearson. Keith was diagnosed with Stage 4 adnenocarcinoma in August 2009. He fought like a champion for 21 months until he passed away on April 28, 2011. We are so thankful for all Keith went through so that we had extra time with him. Keith always kept a positive outlook and was a fighter to the end!

It was Keith's wish that his experience with this deadly disease be for something ... if his life could not be saved, he wanted to be able to help save someone else. This, in addition to raising our children, has become one of my purposes in life.

Some facts about esophageal cancer:
  • There are two types of esophageal cancer: adnenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Adnenocarcinoma is found at the base of the esophagus, at the junction between your esophagus and your stomach. Squamous cell carcinoma is usually found in the mid-to-upper section of the esophagus. Both cancers have similar symptoms, but are caused by different factors. Whereas squamous cell carcinoma is caused (most of the time) by smoking and drinking, adnenocarcinoma is typically caused by heartburn and other stomach ailments.
  • It is a growing, deadly trend. Esophageal cancer, adnenocarcinoma specifically, is the fastest growing cancer diagnosis in the Western world.
  • Esophageal cancer kills more than 80% of its victims, particularly because it is usually only detected at late stages.
  • Every 36 minutes, someone in America dies of esophageal cancer.

How the disease starts:
  • Adnenocarcinoma is most often caused by persistent heartburn. Stomach acid splashes into the esophagus from the stomach, burning and changing the lining of the esophageal tissue. This causes the cells in the esophagus to change in a way that will reduce heartburn symptoms, but those changes can also be the early signs of a precancerous condition called Barrett's Esophagus, which Keith had and did not know he did. Only one out of 20 people who have it are aware that they do.
  • Barrett's Esophagus patients have a 1 in 20 chance of developing esophageal cancer, compared to the 1 in 500 risk faced by the general population.
Are you, or someone you know, at risk?
Consult your primary care doctor or gastroenterologist about screening if you have the following symptoms:
  • Persistent heartburn or acid reflux
  • Regurgitation of food, especially at night
  • Sleep apnea
  • Chronic cough
  • Hoarseness of voice
  • Sore throat

There is another type of esophageal cancer called squamous cell carcinoma, which effects the tissue of the upper part of the esophagus. This cancer is often caused by smoking or drinking. The signs and symptoms of this cancer are similar, but problems are particularly noticed when it becomes very difficult to swallow food.

If you are interested in additional information regarding this disease, please check out the following websites:
  • Esophageal Cancer Action Network -
  • The Mayo Clinic -
  • Cleveland Clinic -

We can beat this disease by bringing more awareness to it!


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