Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew has been known as a home-run slugger. The 74-year-old Minnesota Twins player, nicknamed “Killer” and “Hammerin’ Harmon” hit 573 home runs and made 11 All-Star appearances during his 22-year career. In January, the Minnesota Twins announced that Killebrew was battling esophageal cancer. Today he lost that battle, passing away peacefully with his wife, Nita, and their family at his side.
The esophagus is the muscular tube, anatomically located behind your wind pipe or trachea, throw which food and drink passes between the mouth and the stomach. It’s actually your esophagus, and not your heart, when you experience “heart burn” which is caused by stomach acids leaking backward into your esophagus damaging its lining and causing pain.
The two most common forms of esophageal cancer are named for the type of cells that become malignant (cancerous):
Squamous cell carcinoma: Cancer that forms in squamous cells, the thin, flat cells lining the esophagus. This cancer is most often found in the upper and middle part of the esophagus, but can occur anywhere along the esophagus. This is sometimes called epidermoid carcinoma.
Adenocarcinoma: Cancer that begins in glandular (secretory) cells. Glandular cells in the lining of the esophagus produce and release fluids such as mucus. Adenocarcinomas usually form in the lower part of the esophagus, near the stomach.
Risk factors include the following:
The most common signs of esophageal cancer are painful or difficult swallowing and weight loss. These and other symptoms may be caused by esophageal cancer or by other conditions. A doctor should be consulted if any of the following problems occur:
The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:
Treatment for esophageal cancer typically consists of a combination of surgery, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy.
For more information, go to the Resounding Health CaseBook™ on the topic.