Smoking can cause other cancers too

Yes, aside from lung cancer, smoking can increase risk of other cancers. I will focus here, on cancers of the upper airways and digestive tract. I will write about head and neck, and esophageal cancers.

The esophagus is a long tube that leads from the back of the throat to the stomach. From the back of the nose and throat, there is a channel (the pharynx) that runs downwards and splits into two channels, one in front, and the other behind. The channel in front leads to the trachea then airways and lungs. The channel behind leads to the esophagus then stomach.

Smoking can cause transformation of the cells lining these channels. Most commonly, a kind of cancer called squamous cell carcinoma may develop.

Symptoms are variable and may include examples like a lump in the neck, difficulty or pain with swallowing, and hoarseness. Even non-smokers may develop such cancers.

Basically, any lingering symptoms such as those above, should never be ignored.

Diagnosis may involve several specialists: An ENT surgeon may need to perform a video camera exam (panendoscopy) to see where the tumor is located and how extensive. An enlarged lymph node may need to be biopsied. A GI doctor may need to perform an EGD (to look at the esophagus and stomach and take biopsies).

Treatment also involves different specialists: One may need some combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. A typical oncology team would include a medical oncologist, surgeon, and radiation oncologist. There are other very important medical personnel such as speech and physical therapists

Treatments may have both short-term and long-term side effects. It is important to address these in order to improve quality of life in years following. Many individuals with such cancers are at risk for other cancers, due to their smoking history and so may need other screening tests.

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Author of "Self navigate for health" available as eBook on Amazon and paperback on Lulu. Hematology-oncology physician writing about medical self-advocacy or "self-navigation", cancer, blood disorders, and books

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