The importance of early detection in esophageal cancer

1. Trend of esophageal cancer (Relevance between sex and age)

Esophageal cancer becomes more prevalent with age (>55) and is more common among men than women; approximately 70% of cases worldwide are reported in men, and the incidence rate of esophageal cancer among men is 2‐fold to 3‐fold that among women.

2. How to detect cancer – main screening methods for esophageal cancer

Although the screening for certain age or certain sex is not performed for esophageal cancer, people at high risk of esophageal cancer—those with high alcohol intake and regular smoking, gastroesophageal reflux disease, Barrett's esophagus, etc.—are encouraged to undergo screening optionally. There are several screening methods for esophageal cancer.

For the detection of esophageal cancer, generally, upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, which can directly observe the esophageal mucosa, is used. A Barium swallow test, which involves xray imaging of the stomach using a contrast medium (barium), is often used for detection when the patients present with symptoms involving problems with swallowing, as this test can show abnormal surfaces on the normally smooth surface of the inner lining, or the inner side/inner wall, of the esophagus. The cancer is also detected incidentally during stomach radiography and gastroscopy.

The screening systems and methods vary between countries and within regions.

3. Early detection is important for esophageal cancer

Survival rates of people with early stages of esophageal cancer are higher, implying that early detection improves survival. Because the chance of early detection is increased recently, the 5-year survival of early-detected and progressed cases of esophageal cancer has increased in the United States from 5% in 1970s to approximately 20% now. This number significantly increases to 45% if only early-detected cases are considered, which highlights the relevance of early detection.

Five-year survival of Esophageal Cancer in the US 1970s'Overall:5%, 2019'Overall:20%, 2019'early-detection:45%
American Cancer Society. Esophagus cancer: About Esophagus Cancer: Key Statistics for Esophageal Cancer.
American Society of Clinical Oncology. Esohphageal cancer: Statistics.

This column has been prepared under the supervision of a physician for the purpose of providing general information on cancer.
It is not a substitute for the advice and services that should be provided by a physician or other healthcare professional. If you notice any health conditions, please consult your family doctor or a specialist.

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