Study Finds Surgery Underused Among Esophageal Cancer Patients

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia have reported that surgery to remove the esophagus among esophageal cancer patients is being underused and may be costing patients dearly.

According to the study conducted by the researchers, only 34 percent of approximately 2,386 patients who were diagnosed with esophageal cancer from 1997 to 2002 received surgery. Patients that received surgery had a longer survival rate compared to patients who did not receive a surgical procedure.

The article, which was published in the Archives of Surgery in December 2008 also reported that “roughly 37 percent of white patients with early cancer of the esophagus were treated surgically compared with just 19 percent of their non-white counterparts.” The study concluded that esophageal cancer patients must receive more surgical treatments to better increase their chances of survival.

Cancer of the Esophagus

Esophageal cancer is considered a very severe form of cancer that is four times more likely to affect men than women and “African Americans are twice as likely as Caucasians to have this cancer,” according to the University of California in Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine.

The cancer affects the “10-inch long tube that connects your throat and the stomach,” according to the Mayo Clinic. There are several common signs and symptoms of esophageal cancer including the following:

* difficulty swallowing

* unintentional weight loss

* pain in throat

* pain in midchest

* pain in between shoulders

* hoarseness

* hiccups

* vomiting blood

Developing Esophageal Cancer

There are many risk factors associated with the development of esophageal cancer including the following, as reported by the Mayo Clinic:

* An individual’s age — those between the ages of 55 and 70 are at an increased risk.

* A patient’s sex is a large factor as men are more commonly affected compared to women.

* Race affects an individuals risk ‘especially squamous cell esophageal cancer,’ which is more common among African Americans.

* Individuals who eat fruits and vegetables are more likely to be at less of a risk for developing the condition than those who consume a poor diet.

* Exposure to radiation therapy and treatments can increase risk.

* Occupational exposure to toxins including dry cleaning solvents, silica dust, sandstone and granite.

Some evidence has found that individuals who drink hot liquids frequently may be at an increased risk for developing squamous cell esophageal cancer.

Additionally, a new and unintended risk for developing esophageal cancer exists among Fosamax patients who have consumed the osteoporosis drug. Fosamax is commonly prescribed to individuals who have suffered from bone density loss and osteoporosis such as postmenopausal women. However, in January, the drug was found by The New England Journal of Medicine to have caused nearly 23 cases of esophageal cancer since its commercial release in 1995 from Merck and Company.

Fosamax has also been associated with the development of osteonecrosis (ONJ) of the jaw, according to another study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association. Because of the Fosamax side effects it may be necessary for a Fosamax patient to discuss their drug consumption with a medical professional. It may also be necessary to contact a pharmaceutical attorney to receive a free legal consultation on the potential development of a Fosamax class action lawsuit.

Development of Fosamax litigation may increase the potential for obtaining monetary compensation for a victim of the drug’s risks. Receiving monetary funds as compensation could assist a victim in paying for medical bills associated with the dangers of Fosamax.

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