April 22, 2024

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Esophageal Cancer: From Asymptomatic Progression to Metastatic Symptoms

Esophageal Cancer: From Asymptomatic Progression to Metastatic Symptoms

Esophageal Cancer: From Asymptomatic Progression to Metastatic Symptoms

Asymptomatic Until Advanced: Comprehensive Explanation on Esophageal Cancer Metastasis and Progression Symptoms.

Even if you are concerned about the possibility of esophageal cancer or already have a diagnosis, it’s important to first understand the basics.

What are the characteristics of esophageal cancer? Getting a correct understanding of the current situation is the first step in dealing with it appropriately.

From “The Complete Guide to Esophageal Cancer,” we will introduce the mechanism of esophageal cancer development and its symptoms.

Esophageal Cancer From Asymptomatic Progression to Metastatic Symptoms

Mostly Arises in the Mucosa

Most esophageal cancers develop in the squamous epithelium that covers the inner surface of the esophagus or in the esophageal glands. The cancerous cells rapidly divide and proliferate.

Infiltration: Spreads in all Directions

Initially, cancer that remains in the mucosal layer begins to infiltrate deeper into the esophageal wall and further spreads outside the esophagus as it grows larger. There is also the possibility of direct infiltration of the adjacent trachea and aorta by the primary cancer.

Lymph Node Metastasis: Spreads through the Lymphatic System

Lymphatic vessels serve as pathways for lymph fluid (body fluid), with lymph nodes acting as filtering devices to remove foreign substances. Lymph node metastasis occurs when cancer cells enter these lymph nodes and form a lesion.

Hematogenous Metastasis: Spreads through the Bloodstream

Cancer cells enter the blood vessels within the esophageal wall, are transported to various parts of the body, and grow where they settle. There is a risk of metastasis to various organs such as the lungs, liver, bones, and brain. For example, if a lesion forms in the lungs due to metastasis, it is called “esophageal cancer with lung metastasis” and not lung cancer, as it is different from lung cancer caused by the transformation of lung cells.

Seeding Metastasis: Spreads like Sown Seeds

Seeding means “to sow seeds.” When the cancer grows large and breaks through the outer membrane of the esophagus, it can spread into the chest or abdominal cavity, potentially metastasizing to various organs within these cavities, including the pleura or peritoneum covering the organs.

Esophageal cancer is one of the cancers that is prone to metastasis. The esophageal wall is thin, with lymphatic vessels and blood vessels running through it. Moreover, the esophagus is closely surrounded by many organs and has many lymph nodes.

The degree of infiltration and the presence of metastasis are important points in determining the progression of esophageal cancer.

Asymptomatic Until Advanced

Regardless of where it develops, esophageal cancer is often asymptomatic in the early stages and silently progresses. Symptoms such as difficulty swallowing typically appear when the cancer has grown to a certain size.

Even if cells become cancerous, there is no pain. Therefore, in most cases, early-stage cancer is asymptomatic. However, as the cancer progresses, large cancerous tissues can narrow the esophageal lumen and compress surrounding organs and nerves, impairing normal function.

As a result, symptoms gradually appear. However, it is not possible to determine the presence or progression of cancer based on symptoms alone. For example, although “difficulty swallowing” is a common symptom of esophageal cancer, there are various other diseases that can cause similar symptoms. It’s important to get a proper examination.

Be Aware of Heartburn and Indigestion

Heartburn and indigestion are often attributed to “bad stomach.” While many people may try to get by with over-the-counter stomach medications for mild cases, it’s important to get checked for any abnormalities in the esophagus. Conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or Barrett’s esophagus, which result from repeated esophageal inflammation, can also increase the risk of cancer.

Early-Stage Cancer: No Symptoms. Some may experience discomfort

Early-stage esophageal cancer is asymptomatic, but some people may experience a sensation of stinging in the throat when consuming hot or sour foods, or a feeling of discomfort when swallowing. Rarely, some people may feel a “tingling sensation” in the throat, chest, or abdomen.

Advanced Cancer: Narrowing of the esophageal lumen leads to difficulty swallowing

As the cancer grows and narrows the esophageal lumen, symptoms such as difficulty swallowing may occur. As a result, eating becomes difficult, and weight loss and other symptoms may appear.

Metastatic Cancer: Specific symptoms may appear depending on the site of metastasis

As the cancer progresses and metastasizes to other organs, symptoms specific to those organs may appear. For example, when cancer metastasizes to lymph nodes and compresses the nerves running around the esophagus, it may cause hoarseness or difficulty swallowing.

Esophageal Cancer: From Asymptomatic Progression to Metastatic Symptoms



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