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Monday, November 24, 2008

16,000 ... that's a Thanksgiving

Sometime soon, like within hours, the 16,000th click to this blog will take place.

I know, I know. I keep joking about the same dozen people clicking a bunch of times. But apparently there are more of you. I've heard from folks across the country and a few places outside our borders.

I'm glad. I'm glad word is spreading that esophageal cancer is an unnoticed form of the disease in need of more notice.

I've heard comedians joke about acid reflux as a corporate-made-up illness and I've seen jokes about heartburn. I used to joke about it, as I ate my uber-hot wings and Cajun-spiced desserts.

I don't joke about it any longer. It's very serious stuff.

I was among 101,920 people in Florida to develop cancer, in the American Cancer Society's most recent statistical report. That's for all types of cancer, but only among Floridians. Of those, I was among 1,170 to develop cancer of the esophagus. And of those 1,170, 1,010 people died of the disease. Thankfully, I was not among them. Nationally, esophageal cancer is the seventh most fatal form of cancer among men, claiming 11,250 men's lives, or 4 percent of all male cancer deaths.

There is one area where I was a minority: deaths by esophageal cancer when comparing black men to white men. The Cancer Society's review found 10.2 black men per 100,000 died of esophageal cancer, compared with 7.7 white men per 100,000. So to my black friends, be warned and take precautions.

For 2008, the numbers are grim: 16,470 new cases nationwide and 14,280 deaths. There's a five-year survivability rate of 34 percent for those with the cancer contained to the esophagus, as mine was, so I'm not nearly out of the woods yet. For all stages of the cancer, the survivability rate plunges to 16 percent.

I'll conclude the boring portion of this post by saying that one of the reasons the survivability of this form of cancer is so low is because it often is diagnosed when it becomes a problem -- as mine was. By that point, the tumor already has formed and is in a somewhat advanced stage.

So prevention is the key. Eat healthy meals, lots of fruits and veggies. If you have heartburn, have it treated early, something I failed to do. Smoke? Quit. Drink? Moderate. And if you had heartburn and it went away, you may have Barrett's Esophagus, which is a form of pre-cancer as your body tries to defend itself from reflux. See a doctor.

Please remember I know from where I speak. Get help, and get it soon, if any of the above conditions remind you of yourself.

You can see more statistics about this and other forms of cancer at


VĂ­ctor Manuel Ramos said...

Keith, congratulations on the blog, on your birthday and on looking healthier. Seriously, you looked like a new man when you returned to the newsroom.

Keith W. Kohn said...

Thanks Victor. I'm feeling much better.