Gastro oesophageal junction (GOJ) cancer develops at the point where your food pipe (oesophagus) joins your stomach. Doctors call this part of the body the gastro oesophageal junction.
The number of people who develop this type of cancer is going up. In the past, doctors called cancers in the gastro oesophageal area either cancer of the stomach or cancer of the oesophagus. But now, doctors agree that any cancers that start within 5cm of the junction are gastro oesophageal junction cancers.
It can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference between stomach, oesophagus and GOJ cancers. But we know from research that GOJ cancers are a separate type of cancer. They behave differently to cancers of the oesophagus and stomach and need different treatments.
This is when the cancer spreads down into the gastro oesophageal junction from above – the normal lining of the lower end of the oesophagus is replaced with abnormal cells
This is when the cancer develops at the actual gastro oesophageal junction.
This is when the cancer spreads up into the gastro oesophageal junction from below (so from the stomach upwards). It is important to find out which type of cancer you have. Then you can have the right treatment. Questions and answers on gastro oesophageal junction cancer.
What is the oesophagus?
The oesophagus, also known as the gullet, is a long, muscular tube that connects your throat to your stomach. In adults it is at least 30cm long. When you swallow food it is carried down the oesophagus to the stomach as the walls of the oesophagus contract to move the food down. At the upper part of its length, the oesophagus runs behind, but is separate from, the wind pipe (trachea) that connects the mouth and nose with the lungs, enabling you to breathe. Various lymph glands (that filter fluid, infection and cancer cells) are located close to the oesophagus, in your neck, in the middle of your chest and near the area where the oesophagus joins the stomach.
Cancer of the oesophagus presents no signs at its onset. In later stages the following signs are noticeable:
Progressive difficulty in swallowing
Indigestion or regurgitation
Physical exhaustion and weakness
How is it detected?
Any person who presents with these symptoms must be seen by a doctor who can do an examination on the lining of the oesophagus to determine whether cancer is present. A tube is usually inserted into one’s oesophagus for a close-up examination.
Who is at risk of gastro oesophageal cancer?
Use tobacco products excessively combined with alcohol
Eat maize contaminated with fungal toxins
Regularly get infected with Candida Albicans (a fungus that causes diseases in the digestive system)
How is it prevented?
Research shows that cancer is related to diet and lifestyle. If you make the following healthy lifestyle choices you can significantly reduce the risk of getting the disease:
Follow a balanced eating plan that provides you with an adequate supply of all the major nutrients
Eat low-fat, high-fibre foods
Limit your alcohol consumption to two drinks per day if you are male and one if you are female
Avoid eating contaminated maize
Avoid tobacco products
Cancer occurs when abnormal cells grow, reproduce andform a tumour in the oesophagus. According to the National Cancer Registry, cancer of the oesophagus affects about 13% of the South African population. Its incidence is higher in males than in females.
For more information visit http://www.cansa.org.za