Rare Disease Education: Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal Cancer

Rare Disease Education: Esophageal Cancer

Editor: Kelsey LaFayette, DNP, RN, FNP-C

"When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses, not zebras,” is a common saying in medical education that means you should think of common conditions first, instead of rare ones, in making a diagnosis. “Rare” is a relative term though and about 7,000 rare, or "zebra," conditions affect more than 350 million individuals worldwide. Although these conditions collectively affect an enormous number of people,  each of these conditions individually is rare enough that it can be difficult to secure the resources to study them and to develop treatments and cures. Likewise, awareness of rare conditions may be low and health care professionals may not be familiar with their signs and symptoms making it more difficult to reach a correct diagnosis and provide effective treatments.  

To increase knowledge about rare conditions, Osmosis and the National Organization for Rare Diseases (NORD) have collaborated on an initiative to bring education and awareness to the public. We are excited to be a part of this initiative because we believe everyone deserves quality health care, no matter how rare their condition.

Zebra of the Week: Esophageal Cancer

Swallowing is a complex, beautifully coordinated process that happens without much conscious effort on our part. It culminates in food traveling through the esophagus and the rest of the digestive system. Yet, even the parts of the body we do not give much thought to can be the site of malignancy.

In Esophageal Cancer, a tumor grows to progressively obstruct the esophageal tube. Unfortunately, symptoms are late to arise and the diagnosis is commonly made in later stages of the disease. When present, the most common symptom is progressive difficulty swallowing that begins with solid foods then reaches liquids. Risk factors include smoking, alcohol, and obesity.

To learn more about the diagnosis and treatment of Esophageal Cancer, watch the dedicated Osmosis video on Youtube and on Osmosis. 

Meet Sally

When she was diagnosed with advanced Esophageal Cancer, Sally was all but told it was a death sentence. Yet, she saw no reason to resign herself to what may come without a fight. Watch her beat cancer against all odds in the video above.

More Information on Esophageal Cancer

Signs & Symptoms, Causes and Diagnosis


Video and Anatomy