There is Hope After Cancer
- Pharmacist Leanne Molloy was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in her 30s, after she suddenly had difficulty swallowing and went in to get checked.
- The wife and mom-of-one was told she would have little chance of conceiving again after cancer treatment, but then she proved everyone wrong and became pregnant with her second child.
- Esophageal cancer symptoms such as heartburn, weight loss, and difficulty swallowing, often mimic that of other diseases, that’s why it’s key to pay attention to any lingering signs that are worth getting checked out, no matter how minimal. Early detection, as always, is key.
Leanne and her husband, Brian, welcomed baby Nova in April, and doctors say she is doing “brilliantly.”Read More
“There were things that I could eat with no difficulty, but other things would stick,” she told BelfastLive. “I learnt to jiggle my hands up and got my husband to look after our daughter so I could go out of the room and jiggle.”
“Over time, after visiting the GP and doing some tests, the GP arranged for me to go to the hospital for an endoscopy test,” she recalled. “When they told me they’d found something, I was so relieved cos I knew there was something.”
However, the mother-of -one, at the time, didn’t know it would be cancer. “I was just numb,” she said of the shocking news.
Leanne went through the whirlwind process of tests and scans and treatment, but fortunately, she had her second baby girl as a light at the end of the tunnel.
Leanne now wants to give other cancer patients hope. She not only wants to show that having a natural pregnancy is possible after cancer treatment, but even more importantly, learning the symptoms can help people with an early diagnosis.
While working at the pharmacy, Leanne says they notice people coming in and buying heartburn and acid reflux medicine and she wants to monitor who is doing repeat purchases and potentially self-medicating and not going in for a proper diagnosis.
“If you have symptoms, get it checked out, don’t keep taking tablets if it’s persistent hiccups or burping. Go and see your doctor. That’s what the doctors are there for.”
Understanding 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 American men. Risk factors for esophageal cancer include smoking, alcohol consumption, acid reflux disease and obesity. However, the cause of most esophageal cancers is unknown.
Treatment options for esophageal cancer include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and immunotherapy.
In a previous conversation about treating esophageal cancer, Dr. Raja Flores, chair of thoracic surgery at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, told SurvivorNet the disease is often diagnosed in the later stages — meaning it has already spread to distant parts of the body.
“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 said.
Dr. Brendon Stiles, chief of thoracic surgery at Montefiore Medical Center, previously shared his expertise on this disease with SurvivorNet.
“We know that esophageal cancer is a tough one, it’s one of the cancers with one of the lowest cure rates out there,” he said. “But like many cancers, if we find it early, we can often treat it effectively. Either with surgery, or surgery and chemotherapy – surgery, chemotherapy and radiation sometimes. My message to patients is the same as it is for most cancers, try to get diagnosed early.”
Esophageal Cancer: Signs to Look Out For
But why is it often diagnosed so late? One reason could be that its symptoms — weight loss, difficulty swallowing and heartburn — often mimic that of other diseases, according to Dr. Stiles. Things like heartburn are generally not cause for any serious concern, but it’s 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.