When You Know Something is Off
- Noeleen McMorris from Derry, Ireland was a healthy woman with an active lifestyle when she suddenly developed symptoms of hiccups, indigestion, and a change in swallowing habits.
- Immediately knowing something was wrong, she went in to get checked out. It was stage 2 esophageal cancer, which is typically more common in men.
- Things like acid reflux are generally not cause for any serious concern, but it is important to communicate any issues with your doctor. The more proactive you are about your health, the more likely you are to have an early diagnosis if something serious were to arise.
Immediately knowing something was wrong, she went in to get checked out. It was stage 2 esophageal cancer, which is typically more common in men.Read More
“Although it was a big shock, I was glad I had gone to the doctor early. I could so easily have ignored it and not done anything for months,” she said, which serves as a super important lesson for each and every one of us. ” I was really grateful my GP was on the ball and pushed for an endoscopy because I had a healthy lifestyle and didn’t fit the typical statistics of being an older man, a smoker or a drinker.”
Though Noeleen has regained a lot of her strength in the five years since, she is accepting of the fact that her life is a bit different as a survivor.
“Overall it has been a rollercoaster but I’m well enough down the line now to appreciate that I am healthy. I deal with the symptoms, and I know how to adjust to cope with them and I positively encourage myself to eat healthily and eat properly.”
Learning About Esophageal Cancer
The esophagus is a tube that goes from the throat to the stomach and plays an important role in your digestive system. When cancerous cells form inside the tissues of this organ, you have esophageal cancer.
Overall, this cancer is rare, often difficult to diagnose and more common in men in the United States. Of more than 20,000 cases of esophageal cancer expected to be diagnosed in the U.S. this year, about 4,000 will be diagnosed in women, according to the American Cancer Society.
It is also important to note that some people confuse esophageal cancer with throat cancer, but they are, in fact, different. The cause of most esophageal cancers is unknown — though some risk factors like tobacco use can increase the likelihood of developing this cancer — while the human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted virus also known as HPV, is known to cause most throat cancers.
Dr. Brendon Stiles talks about treatment options for patients with esophageal cancer
Dr. Raja Flores, chairman of thoracic surgery at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, tells SurvivorNet that esophageal cancer is often diagnosed in the later stages, meaning it has spread to distant parts of the body. This was the case for Craig Lawrenson.
“Of (all the cases diagnosed in the U.S. per year), only about 1,000 get surgery because the majority of them are identified at such a late stage,” he says.
Getting emotional support when diagnosed with esophageal cancer
Esophageal cancer is often diagnosed so late because its symptoms often mimic that of other diseases including weight loss, difficulty swallowing and heartburn (also known as acid reflux), according to Dr. Brendon Stiles, chief of thoracic surgery at Montefiore Medical Center.
Things like acid reflux are generally not cause for any serious concern, but it is important to communicate any issues with your doctor. The more proactive you are about your health, the more likely you are to have an early diagnosis if something serious were to arise.
Contributing by SurvivorNet staff.