Dysphagia could be the first warning sign of oesophageal cancer
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Oesophageal cancer isn’t stingy with its symptoms. The deadly condition can trigger various warning signs but they might be difficult to spot. Fortunately, knowing what to look for could be the first step in identifying the culprit.
Sadly, the daunting condition claims around 8,000 lives each year in the UK alone.
But early detection of any cancer type lands itself for a better prognosis, with oesophageal cancer being no exception.
While symptoms might not crop up until the cancerous tumour is big enough to interfere with eating, one sign could ring alarm bells relatively early.
Dysphagia could be the “first warning sign” of the deadly condition, according to Moffitt Cancer Centre.
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Dysphagia, or trouble swallowing, can create a sensation that makes you feel like food is lodged in your throat.
Some people only struggle to swallow certain foods or liquids, while others can’t swallow at all.
Moffitt states: “Often initially mild, dysphagia typically worsens as the growing tumour causes the oesophagus to become narrower, which limits the passage of food and can potentially lead to choking or an inability to swallow.”
You may find that you start to change your eating habits, such as taking smaller bites, eating softer foods, or avoiding solid foods altogether.
Over time, the red flag symptom can stir up other problems such as weight loss and repeated chest infections, the NHS warns.
While dysphagia could alert you of the deadly condition, the symptom is also linked to other benign problems like heartburn.
Fortunately, there are other tell-tale signs of oesophageal cancer that can help spot the culprit, including:
- Feeling or being sick
- Heartburn or acid reflux
- Symptoms of indigestion (such as burping a lot)
- Cough that is not getting better
- Hoarse voice
- Loss of appetite or losing weight without trying to
- Feeling tired or having no energy
- Pain in your throat or the middle of your chest, especially when swallowing.
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The NHS advises to “see a GP” if you are experiencing persisting symptoms of oesophageal cancer.
The health service notes: “You might find you get used to them.
“But it’s important to be checked by a GP if your symptoms change, get worse, or do not feel normal for you.”
The good news is that having these symptoms doesn’t guarantee you have oesophageal cancer but it’s still crucial to get checked.
How to prevent oesophageal cancer
From drinking hot tea to smoking, there are certain lifestyle habits that put you at a greater risk of the serious condition, according to Cancer Research UK.
In the UK, around 35 percent of oesophageal cancer cases are triggered by smoking. The charity advises: “It’s never too late to give up but the sooner you stop, the better.”
Furthermore, research suggests drinking very hot beverages or liquids also increases your likelihood of this cancer.
Other interventions such as cutting back on alcohol and maintaining a healthy weight can also help reduce your risk.
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