It’s the sixth most common cause of cancer death worldwide, yet many people don’t realize they have the disease.
is it the esophageal cancer – the long tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach – causes no symptoms at the onset of the disease.
This is what happened to former Scottish football player Andy Goram, who played as a goalkeeper and played for several clubs in Scotland and England; he was recently revealed to have esophageal cancer.
The news shocked his supporters when Goram, 58, announced in May that he had been told he had just six months to live.
In an interview, the former footballer explained that he felt unwell about seven weeks ago when he struggled to eat and drink.
Goram says he ignored the heartburn he first suffered after failing to get an appointment with his doctor.
Like him, many patients treated for esophageal cancer recount how this disease initially presents without symptoms, or with symptoms that are often easily overlooked.
In 2020, according to data from the Ministry of Healththis type of cancer was the fifth in terms of mortality among men in Brazil, after which it affects the respiratory tract (trachea, bronchi and lungs), prostate, colon, rectum and stomach.
“I ignored like everyone else”
Paul Sinclair, from Fife on the east coast of Scotland, told the BBC he started feeling what felt like gas in his lower ribcage in September 2020. Sinclair also felt like overeating after just a few bites.
“I ignored it, like everyone else,” he says. “I felt gassy. But I ate well, without pain.
“It was just a nuisance under my ribs. It lasted about a week and a half and then I thought, ‘I’m going to see someone about it.
“I went to the doctor and he sent me straight for an endoscopy. The CT scan confirmed that I had a tumor in the upper part of my stomach.
Sinclair underwent four rounds of chemotherapy over an eight-week period before taking a six-week break.
After that, he underwent an 11-hour surgery, which also included the removal of his spleen – a small organ located in the upper left part of the abdomen, which helps in the blood filtering process.
Sinclair then underwent “very aggressive chemotherapy” again.
“I got very sick from the chemotherapy sessions,” he explains. “The second session was worse because the body is already weak after the surgery.”
“As you recover, you need to start learning to eat again, chew your food well, eat small portions, and eat lots of meals throughout the day.”
Now, three years later, Sinclair can return to the gym for light exercise, but “nothing will ever be the same”.
“You have to stay optimistic and be thankful for each day you wake up,” he says.
“Most importantly, I haven’t had any particularly severe symptoms, but it’s important not to ignore them and seek medical attention.”
‘The earliest would be best’
Caroline Geraghty, a specialist nurse at Cancer Research UK, says the risk of oesophageal cancer is increased by “typical factors” such as smoking, alcohol consumption, weight gain and chewing tobacco.
“But having a higher risk doesn’t mean you’ll definitely get cancer,” he says. “Most people don’t know why they have esophageal cancer.”
Geraghty recommends anyone with symptoms see their doctor “to be sure”.
“As we know, the earlier cancer is identified, the greater the risk of survival patient,” he added.
But she notes that for most people who complain of symptoms like heartburn and dysphagia, the diagnostic It’s not esophageal cancer.
“We can understand why some GPs don’t send the patient directly for endoscopy to find out what’s wrong; some people really need antacids,” he says.
“But there will be other people who will need a investigation Deeper.”