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Monday, January 26, 2009

Records come, records go

Earlier today, the 17,000th visitor to my blogs, CancerVivor.blogspot.com and kohnzone.blogspot.com, stopped by for a few.

They were greeted by either photos of a really cute newborn named Emily (kohnzone) or some less than cute images of the inner workings of my body (CancerVivor).

At the former, I was announcing the birth of my first grandchild and showing off some photos. That's pretty self-explanatory, so I'll focus on the cancer site.

There, as I have since it launched, I am trying to educate as many people as possible about esophageal cancer and how to avoid it.

So I'll rehash some things I've said in the past:

First, YES! You can get cancer from heartburn. It's not all that difficult, apparently. I did it. Just eat spicy foods -- lots of them -- mixed with greasy, unhealthy items. For a long time. That will set you in the right direction. To follow up, avoid seeing a doc about heartburn or taking meds to treat it. Then, when the heartburn fades away suddenly, think of it as a blessing that your self-medication has helped, not the condition know as Barrett's Esophagus which masks a pre-cancerous condition. If any of these symptoms occur, longtime heartburn or sudden discontinuation of heartburn for no real reason, see a doctor.

Second, esophageal cancer survival is so low because it often is diagnosed in advanced stages. For me, the tumor was large enough to block much of my swallowing, but not all. So if you find it difficult to get food from your mouth to your stomach, see a doctor. The sooner the better.

Third, statistically, esophageal cancer is growing, both nationwide and in Florida. It continues to be very lethal, as noted above. Of the 1,170 Floridians to come down with the disease, 1,010 people died in the American Cancer Society's most recent statistical report. The numbers were grim nationwide as well in 2008: 16,470 new cases 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.

When diagnosed, I was staged at 2 to 3, meaning it was advanced but had not yet spread to the lymphatic system. That's what saved my life -- so far.

Across the country, esophageal cancer is the seventh-leading form of cancer among men, claiming 11,250 lives -- or 4 percent of all male cancer deaths.

So please, please, if any of this sounds like you, get help. Get it now. Do not wait. I'm not a doctor but I can speak from experience and, sadly, this is an area in which I have experience. Be cautions and take a proactive stance.

It could save your life.

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