Wed, May 29, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Esophageal cancer sixth-most common among men: doctor

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Esophageal cancer is the sixth-most common cancer among Taiwanese men, a radiation oncologist said yesterday, urging people not to drink too much alcohol.

A 59-year-old man surnamed Lee (李) smoked and drank kaoliang liquor every day, consuming a bottle every two to three days over the past couple of decades, Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital radiation oncologist Hung Tsung-min (洪宗民) said.

Lee late last year started having difficulty and pain when swallowing, and sought medical help after a few weeks, when he was diagnosed with stage 3 esophageal cancer, Hung said.

Lee had a tumor about 6cm long and 2cm wide, said Hung, who treated him.

Esophageal cancer causes no symptoms in the early stages and is usually diagnosed when patients start to have difficulty swallowing, he said.

About 60 percent of patients are diagnosed with stage 3 or stage 4 esophageal cancer, Hung said, adding that its five-year survival rate is the lowest among the 10 common cancers among Taiwanese men.

Esophageal cancer has two main sub-types: esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, which is associated with smoking and alcohol consumption, and is the most common type among Asian people; and adenocarcinoma, which is associated with obesity and acid reflux, and is more often diagnosed in Caucasian people, Hung said.

Usually the treatment for people with stage 3 esophageal cancer involves a combination radio-chemotherapy followed by surgery, but Lee was worried that radiation therapy might damage his heart, liver and vascular system, so he chose to receive a new intensity-modulated proton therapy, paid at his own expense, Hung added.

Lee’s tumor and regional lymph node metastasis disappeared after a six-week treatment, and he was advised to undergo regular checkups to prevent cancer recurrence, he said.

Hung urged people not to smoke or drink excessive amounts of alcohol, especially if they frequently drink liquors with high alcohol content, and to seek medical treatment if they experience difficulty swallowing for at least a week.

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