While risk factors such as age, gender, and susceptibility to Barrett’s esophagus are not within your control, other risk factors are. You can decrease your risk of esophageal cancer by refraining from smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight, and including fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. Allowing steamy beverages to cool before sipping and limiting the consumption of alcohol are other ways you can help prevent cancer. If you suffer from acid reflux, take care to follow your doctor’s recommendations for treating this condition. Individuals with Barrett’s esophagus should request monitoring their esophagus for signs of cancer.
As the lining of the esophagus becomes irritated and inflamed, it may become difficult or uncomfortable to eat. Symptoms of esophageal cancer often include difficulty swallowing food and pain when swallowing firmer foods such as raw vegetables, crackers, or cuts of meat. The American Society of Clinical Oncology also lists indigestion, heartburn, vomiting, choking, and weight loss as symptoms of this type of cancer. Furthermore, irritation may affect your windpipe, causing hoarseness, and coughing. If you frequently suffer from any of these symptoms, be sure to contact your physician.
If your doctor suspects esophageal cancer, he or she will choose from a variety of tests to make a diagnosis. Your physician may start with a barium swallow test to help visualize any abnormalities in the lining of your esophagus. According to the American Cancer Society, early cancers may show up as small round bumps or flat plaques on the surface of the esophagus. More advanced cancers form larger, irregular patches on the esophagus and may cause the passageway to narrow. Other tests used to diagnose esophageal cancer include CT scans, MRI, endoscopies, ultrasounds, biopsies, and blood tests.