Asbestos and Esophageal Cancer
Once a popular construction material, asbestos is a mineral that’s recently been outlawed in places due to its cancer connection. When asbestos fibers are disturbed, they are flung into the air and workers nearby can inhale or swallow them. When this happens, the fibers can get lodged in nearby regions, eventually developing into cancers like esophageal cancer, mesothelioma, or other diseases depending on where the fibers get stuck.
Tumors that develop in the esophagus, form in the long tube that connects the throat to the stomach. Cancer usually starts growing in the cells lining the inside of the esophagus.
Jobs at Risk for Asbestos Exposure
Since the naturally forming mineral asbestos was resistant to fire, electricity, and chemical corrosion, it was used heavily in many building products. This means asbestos can be found in many different capacities, especially job sites. Specific jobs that involve the breaking down of natural and manmade materials and structures are more at risk, as this activity can disturb potentially present asbestos fibers.
Since researchers determined asbestos to be toxic to human health, regulations were put in place to protect workers and anyone who may be negligently exposed. The laws regulate all handling and extraction of the material and hold building owners accountable for proper asbestos removal. The appropriate authorities must also be notified (and approve) of all construction, demolition, and renovation projects that involve asbestos structures.
If you develop esophageal cancer or other cancer due to exposure to asbestos, you could be entitled to financial relief from the organizations responsible for it. An experienced lawyer will be able to review your case and advise you on the best steps to move forward, filing a claim.
Esophageal Cancer Types
Differentiation in esophageal cancer depends on the cell type and location where tumors develop. Tumors primarily grow within the inside lining of the esophagus. The lining is made of two types of cells: gland and squamous.
Adenocarcinomas of the Esophagus
When there’s adenocarcinoma, this means cancer cells are growing in the mucus-producing glands of an organ. In this case, the mucus-producing glands that line the lower part of the esophagus. Adenocarcinomas can grow in the lung and stomach areas as well.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
The upper and middle areas of the esophagus can sometimes contain cancerous cells that grow and spread in the thinner, flatter, cells that form the outer layer of skin, or the squamous cells.
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Symptoms and Diagnosis
Some symptoms of esophageal cancer won’t appear until later stages of the disease. Additionally, exhibiting these symptoms does not necessarily mean that you have cancer.
Some common symptoms of this illness include:
- Continual coughing, wheezing, or hoarseness
- Chronic chest ache, pressure, or burning sensations
- Dysphagia (trouble swallowing)
- Excessive heartburn and indigestion
- Random excessive weight loss
If symptoms keep returning, visit a doctor right away. These ailments can also be signs of a less severe condition. Your doctor will give you multiple tests to rule out all possibilities.
Stages of the Disease
Esophageal cancer is staged by the TNM system. The ‘T’ in TNM references the size of the tumor, how far it has developed into the esophagus wall, and whether tumors have spread to other nearby areas of the body. The ‘N’ signifies how far the disease has gotten to lymph (nodes) and how many are affected. The ‘M’ refers to the spread (metastasis) to further regions in the body.
The level of disease advancement is indicated by numbers 1 through 4. Higher numbers (M1, M2, M3, M4) mean the disease is more advanced stage and has spread to further tissues and organs. An ‘X’ or ‘0’ next to the letter indicates that the tumor can’t be measured, or there is no significant evidence in that area.
Your doctor will be able to explain your exact stage of the disease when they examine you, as there are several variations.
Treatments and Therapies
If the disease is caught at earlier stages, the patient will have more curative treatment options. Later stages of esophageal cancer where tumors have spread to too many organs in the body may only focus on palliative treatment or the management of symptoms and pain.
Treatment plans can consist of one or more of the following:
After several tests, a diagnosis, and staging, your doctor will put together a specialized treatment and therapy plan for you. The National Cancer Institute lists multiple clinical trials available for some patients (with healthcare provider recommendation). Clinical trials involve the combination of emerging treatments and medications that can be tested under the supervision of medical teams.