Dear Readers: Though I do my best to keep my personal life out of this column, I’m writing today about something that has deeply impacted me.
A person very close to me was recently diagnosed with stage IV esophageal cancer. Unfortunately, that’s the stage at which this relatively rare type of cancer is typically caught, due to its lack of obvious symptoms in earlier stages.
I’d like to use this platform to share some information about the risk factors and symptoms of esophageal cancer, in the hope that it might help even one person.
The American Cancer Society estimates that about 16,080 people will die from esophageal cancer this year, and that 17,650 new cases will be diagnosed. Men over 55 are the population most likely to develop esophageal cancer. Other risk factors include: tobacco and alcohol use, especially when combined; gastroesophageal reflux disease; Barrett’s esophagus (a condition that occurs following years of acid reflux); injury of the esophagus; and frequently drinking hot liquids, which can damage the tissue lining the esophagus.
The following are the most commonly reported symptoms of esophageal cancer according to the Esophageal Cancer Awareness Association: difficult or painful swallowing, weight loss, blood in the stool, loss of appetite, feeling very tired, heartburn, pain in the throat or back and hoarseness or coughing.
Additional symptoms noted by the ACS are hiccups, bone pain and bleeding into the esophagus.
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, talk to your doctor today. And if you believe you might be at a high risk for developing esophageal cancer, talk to your doctor about screening options. According to the American Cancer Society, “Many experts recommend that people with a high risk of esophageal cancer, such as those with Barrett’s esophagus, have upper endoscopy regularly.”
For more information, please visit the Esophageal Cancer Awareness Association website at https://www.ecaware.org.
Dear Annie: For the past few months I’ve felt so uncertain of myself. I find myself wondering whether my friends are really my friends. Are they just putting up with me?
I wake up in the middle of the night with my thoughts racing: Am I in the right job? Is my relationship going anywhere? When am I going to able to afford a better apartment (let alone to buy a house)? Who’s going to take care of my parents when they’re older?
I feel like my to-do list is a mile long, but I really want to get my life in order so I can relax. Where do I begin?
— Wringing My Hands
Dear Wringing: Anxiety is a resourceful pest. It will work with whatever’s handy: your boss’s demeanor today, that joke you awkwardly flubbed after the meeting, whether your partner still finds you attractive, where this relationship is going, where your life is headed — and so on. The specifics might change, but the underlying current is the same: anxiety. It’s this that you need to address first, not all the surface-level disparate problems.
Trite but true advice: Exercise daily. A busy body makes for a calmer mind. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “As little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking or cycling, can dramatically improve the quality of your nighttime sleep, especially when done on a regular basis.”
Next, take up meditation. There are many different kinds including mantra, mindfulness and breath awareness. Figure out which works for you and make it a part of your morning and evening rituals.
Lastly, make an appointment with a therapist or another adviser whom you can trust. Talk it out.
Once you’ve done these steps, I have a feeling your to-do list will seem far less daunting.
Annie Lane, a graduate of New York Law School and New York University, writes this column for Creators Syndicate. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.