Esophagoscopy - Esophageal Cancer
What Is It?
Esophageal cancer is often a common cause of malignant disease especially in the gastrointestinal system. It is nearly as common as other cancers of the GI tract, following stomach cancer, rectal cancer and cancers of the colon and bowel. Many researchers believe that esophagoscopy could be helpful in detecting early esophageal carcinomas especially in high risk categories, which includes men ages 50 and older that drink heavily or smoke.
Esophagoscopy is very helpful in detecting esophageal cancer and treating cancer before it becomes so severe it is fatal. There are many other tests that are helpful in confirming this diagnosis, but this test may be the most helpful in identifying those most at risk and the people most likely to benefit from some form of surgery. The purpose of this surgery and many others is to identify who is at risk in the earliest stages and who is more likely to recover from early intervention.
Alternatives to Surgery
Early detection of any type of cancer including esophageal cancer is the best preventive medicine. There are many tests that can help doctors detect esophageal cancer. Of course the best way to detect esophageal cancer is to simply prevent it. Since that is not always possible an esohpagoscopy is available, which is a tool that doctors use to remove tissue samples from affected areas.
This tube may be inserted through the mouth or nose and is gently glided down into the esophagus. The thin instrument may even remove tissue samples which a lab can them evaluate under a microscope.
Before The Operation
A doctor will often perform a biopsy from several different places in the esophagus to find out if you are at risk for esophageal cancer. Often doctors want to confirm whether you have a condition known as Barrett esophagus, which is sometimes considered a precursor or risk factor for esophageal cancer. If you do have this condition a doctor may recommend a special procedure that eliminates this condition to reduce your risk of developing full blown esophageal cancer.
Other tests that can be used include:
- Brush cytology, where a doctor brushes cells from the lining of the esophagus and looks at them under a microscope.
- Balloon cytology, where doctors collect cells using a balloon that a patients swallow. This special balloon is inflated in the esophagus collects cells as it is pulled out of the esophagus.
- Chromoendoscopy - this procedure involves the use of dye which is sprayed onto the lining of the esophagus during an esophagoscopy. If certain areas become more stained than others, than this may be a sign that the patient has Barrett’s Esophagus.
After The Operation
You will return home to rest. Your test results may be abnormal, but this is not guarantee that you have cancer.
Often screening results come back positive when there is no cancer because it is common for a false positive to show up on an esophagoscopy and even a biopsy. This can cause unnecessary concern and anxiety. Other problems include an inability to guarantee that surgery will do anything to benefit the patient, because often there is nothing that can treat advanced esophageal cancer.
Doctors can treat the patient, but often this is not a guarantee of advanced life support. There are just no guarantees with this serious form of cancer. There are many side effects that can actually occur from an esophagoscopy itself. These may include:
- Developing a perforation or hole in the esophagus
- Having difficulty breathing following the exam or during the procedure
- Experiencing a heart attack
- Passing substances into the airway
- Excessive bleeding
Prevention and early detection are critical to saving lives when it comes to esophageal cancer. If you suspect you might have esophageal cancer or experience any of the signs or symptoms of esophageal cancer then seek immediate assistance. Men are more at risk for esophageal cancer than women. People most at risk include individuals that use tobacco, those that use alcohol, anyone that lacks adequate nutrients or calories, and anyone that has been infected with human papilloma virus, people with tylosis, achalasia and individuals that drink hot liquids or foods regularly.
Other risk factors include having gastroesophageal reflux disease, Barrett esophagus, a history of using drugs that may relax the esophageal muscles and being overweight. If you have these risk factors be sure to talk with a qualified health professional about your risk for esophageal cancer. There are many screening tests currently available that can help find early cancer and reduce your risk of dying from this cancer. There are also many studies currently underway that patients can participate in if diagnosed with esophageal cancer.
Estimated Costs for Esophageal Cancer Surgery
The costs for esophagoscopy include the costs for inserting the esophagoscope into the mouth and nose and usually for interpretation of the results. Costs also include costs for additional hospital stays and some medication treatment. Costs may also include some irradiation and other treatments including palliative treatments as most patients with esophageal cancer will require palliative care for the remainder of their lives. The costs of esophageal surgery and treatment can rise exponentially if patients are not provided with a realistic projection of their expected outcome.
It is important patients and doctors are realistic about the patient’s situation and chances for living a reasonable quality of life following any procedures or surgery.