If you’ve recently been diagnosed with esophageal cancer, it’s no doubt a scary time. And you might be wondering how patients can improve their odds of favorable medical outcomes.
In these circumstances, you might ask your doctor if you’d be eligible to participate in an esophageal cancer trial.
Let’s look into esophageal cancer, its treatability, and how cancer trials could make a big difference in eradicating this disease for good.
What Is Esophageal Cancer?
To start with, the esophagus is the long, muscular tube that stretches from the throat to the stomach.
The upper esophageal sphincter — the muscle at the top of the esophagus — opens up whenever you eat something. The esophagus will then push the food down to the stomach for digestion.
When cancer forms in the esophagus, it typically originates in its lining. And cancerous cells could begin growing at any point along the esophagus.
As with other cancers, this cancer occurs when cells with mutated DNA form tumors. Those abnormal cells can quickly grow and multiply, and tumors can spread to other body parts.
Medical experts aren’t sure precisely what causes this type of cancer. However, certain health and lifestyle factors can increase a person’s risk for this disease. They include the following:
- Excessive alcohol intake
- A history of gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Chronic heartburn
Among the symptoms are:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Acute heartburn
- Severe indigestion
- Chest pain
- Back pain
- A sore or hoarse throat
- Impeded swallowing
Unfortunately, in the earliest stage, there are rarely symptoms of esophageal cancer. That’s why regular physicals and cancer screenings are so important.
In a more advanced stage, esophageal cancer can cause bleeding, throat obstructions, and more intense pain.
Are Doctors Usually Successful in Treating Esophageal Cancer?
First, it’s essential to distinguish treating cancer from curing cancer.
Treating cancer means using one or more therapies — radiation, chemotherapy, medications, and so on — to send a cancer into remission.
When cancer is in remission, its symptoms ease. They may disappear for a period of time, perhaps years.
Curing cancer, conversely, means getting rid of the disease entirely so that it never returns.
With that in mind, esophageal cancer is rarely curable. (Of course, that could change someday.) However, doctors often have success in treating esophageal cancer. Indeed, in Stage I, approximately 55% of patients survive for at least five years.
That percentage progressively declines in Stages II, III, and IV. Tragically, people with Stage IV esophageal cancer rarely live for another year.
The Quest for a Powerful New Treatment for Esophageal Cancer
One cause for optimism here is that esophageal cancer research is ongoing. New therapies, including immunotherapies, are constantly being investigated.
Also, new cancer drugs and new combinations of existing drugs are constantly being tested.
Thus, a safe and effective treatment for esophageal cancer could be discovered at any time. And in all of this, a keystone of esophageal cancer research is the clinical study.
What Is an Esophageal Cancer Clinical Trial?
If you have esophageal cancer and want access to cutting-edge treatment, an esophageal cancer clinical trial might be your answer. Such studies are open to patients at every stage of cancer.
Simply put, a clinical trial is a medical research study in which people from all walks of life can participate as subjects. Doctors test various treatments on those individuals, and these trials occasionally lead to medical breakthroughs.
Every esophageal cancer trial is carefully designed and controlled, from start to finish, to study the effectiveness of a certain medical approach. It might involve preventing, diagnosing, treating, or managing cancer.
Medical experts would never conduct an esophageal cancer trial without first doing years of careful research. For instance, if researchers wanted to test a new cancer medication, they’d study its characteristics and reactions in a lab.
After that, they would try the drug on animals. And, all along, they’d closely observe its side effects. Then, once they were sure it was safe, they’d start designing a human-based experiment.
In short, people participating in cancer trials aren’t just seeking treatments for themselves. They’re also blazing a hopeful path for everyone who’s fighting cancer. So often, they’re making a crucial mark in medical history.