Oesophageal Cancer Awareness Month: Know the Signs
February is Oesophageal Cancer Awareness Month, which is a crucial time to shine a light on an often-overlooked cancer. This is a topic close to my heart as a close family member has recently been diagnosed with oesophageal cancer and is currently embarking on their own treatment journey.
Not only this, but as a clinical negligence solicitor, I see first-hand the devastating impact delayed diagnosis and misdiagnosis can have on patients and their families. It is important for people to not only become familiar with the signs and symptoms of oesophageal cancer, but also understand their legal rights in case of medical negligence.
What is Oesophageal Cancer?
Oesophageal cancer, affecting the tube connecting the mouth to the stomach, is the eighth most common cancer globally. Despite its prevalence, awareness remains low, which hinders early diagnosis and potentially leading to poorer outcomes. Early detection is critical for improving survival rates, which currently stand at a concerning 16% five-years after diagnosis.
Know the Signs
Being aware of the symptoms of oesophageal cancer can allow you to seek prompt medical attention, potentially improving your chances of a successful diagnosis and treatment. Key signs include:
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), especially solids.
- Heartburn and acid reflux that don't respond to medication.
- Chest pain, often burning or squeezing.
- Unexplained weight loss.
- Persistent coughing or hoarseness.
One critical issue when it comes to early diagnosis is that the above symptoms can often have multiple causes, and it is therefore vital to seek the advice of your GP as soon as you suspect something is not normal for you.
Oesophageal cancer can be treatable, but it can be difficult to treat and will depend on the size and type of cancer it is; the location (i.e. where in the oesophagus); if it has spread to nearby nodes, tissues and organs; and a person’s general health.
If your surgeon has indicated that your oesophageal cancer is potential curable, treatment usually entails chemotherapy followed by surgery, with additional chemotherapy afterwards. Sometimes instead of pre-surgical chemotherapy you may be offered radiotherapy, and sometimes you could be offered a combination of the two.
If the cancer is sadly not curable, there are targeted medicines and immunotherapy which can aid in symptom control and improve quality of life.
If you or a loved one experiences delayed or missed diagnoses of oesophageal cancer, impacting your health and wellbeing, seeking legal advice is crucial. Clinical negligence claims can help you access:
- Compensation for pain, suffering, and loss of income.
- Funding for ongoing medical care and rehabilitation.
- Accountability against the healthcare providers involved.
Don't Delay, Be Proactive!
- Educate yourself: Visit the websites of organisations like Cancer Support and Macmillan Cancer Support for comprehensive information.
- Seek medical advice: Discuss any concerns you have with your doctor, especially if you notice any changes which are not normal for you;
- Seek legal advice: If you suspect negligence has impacted your oesophageal cancer diagnosis or treatment, please contact Lanyon Bowdler’s specialist team of medical negligence solicitors or by emailing email@example.com
By raising awareness of Oesophageal Cancer Awareness Month and sharing advice and support, we can empower ourselves and our loved ones to fight for better healthcare and hold negligent parties accountable.