In August 2011, my grandmother died of esophageal cancer. Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body, and cells divide rapidly. Cancer starts as a tumor located in a specific part of the body. A tumor is an abnormal growth of body tissue. There are two types of tumors; benign and malignant. A benign tumor is a tumor that is not cancerous, so it has not yet spread to other parts of the body, but is localized in one area. They grow slowly and until they become a malignant tumor, they are not very harmful. A malignant tumor is one that is cancerous, where the cancer cells start traveling to other parts of the body.
Cancer cells invade and damage tissues and organs, and can enter the bloodstream. Proto-oncogenes, a gene in normal cells, both promote and inhibit cell division at the same time. In cancer cells both of these functions are stopped, and cells stop entering G0, the period of the cell cycle where a cell rests and completes basic functions, instead of dividing. Because of this, cells start dividing rapidly. These rapidly dividing cells start off located in a specific location of the body, and as they divide, create a lump, or a tumor. This is known as the benign stage.
As the tumor grows, overtime the tumor becomes attached to blood vessels, and travels throughout the rest of the body. Once this happens, the tumor becomes malignant, and is very hard to cure. As stated earlier, I chose esophageal cancer because that was the cancer my grandmother died of a year and a half ago. This cancer starts in the esophagus, a tube that runs from the throat to the stomach for food to travel through. There are two types of esophageal cancer. The first is called squamous cell, squamous cells make up the outermost lining of the esophagus, and this type can affect any part of the lining.
The second type, adenocarcinoma, develops in the lower part of the esophagus, near the stomach. Esophageal Cancer consists of five different stages. The first stage is when abnormal cells are found in the inner layer of the organ. The second stage is when the cancer has grown through the inner layer reaching the outer layer. The third stage is one of the following: cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes, cancer has invaded the muscle layer, or the cancer has grown through the outer layer of the esophagus.
The next stage consists of either the cancer both growing through the outer layer and spreading to the lymph nodes or the cancer invading nearby structures. The last stage is the cancer spreading to other organs in the body. Doctors and scientists aren’t quite sure what the causes of esophageal cancer are, but people with gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD) are at an increased risk. In GERD stomach acid gets into the esophagus, damaging the lining, leading to a condition called Barrett’s Esophagus, which leads to Esophageal Cancer.
Some symptoms are difficulty or pain when swallowing, weight loss, chest pains, coughing/hoarseness, and heartburn. Also, vomiting may occur. African American’s are at greater risk for developing squamous cell esophageal cancer, while Caucasians are more likely to develop adenocarcinoma. Alcohol, smoking cigarettes, and using tobacco may also lead to this cancer, along with being obese. Males are more common to get esophageal cancer than females, and it is more likely for people between 45 and 70 years old. Also, drinking hot beverages may lead to it.
My grandmother, fits into some of the groupings, as she was Caucasian, between the age of 45 and 70 when she was first diagnosed, and a big coffee drinker. However, she never smoked and rarely had alcohol. Some interesting facts are that men are four times as likely to be diagnosed than women. In the U. S. the chance of living five years after diagnoses is 17%. This type of cancer is much more common in China, Iraq, India, and Africa. There are a few different treatment options for people with esophageal cancer.
The cancer has a greater chance of being treated if it is caught in the early stage, but most of the time, it is already in an advanced stage. One option is surgery, where part or the entire esophagus is removed. This is more common in an early stage. Radiation kills cancer cells using radiation. Chemotherapy uses a powerful drug to kill the cells. Photodynamic therapy uses a laser to kill the cells. Electrocoagulation uses electric currents to kill the cells. These options are used in advanced stages. Considered one of the best options is a combination of radiation and chemotherapy.
The treatment chosen also has to do with the physical strength of the patient, as well as the stage. Honestly, these treatments rarely if ever completely remove cancer from the body. Many people will go into a period of time called remission, but unfotunately than have more complications from their cancer and die. All in all, millions of people die of all kinds of cancer each year, and millions more are diagnosed with a type of cancer. It strikes many families across the country, as that individual or someone they know most likely has cancer. Hopefully, scientists in the future will be able to find a cure.