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Does swallowing barium lead to cancer of esophagus and stomach?

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General & Family Physician
Practicing since : 2009
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Do barium swallows usually pick up cancers of the esophagus and stomach?
Posted Sat, 20 Jul 2013 in Cancer
Answered by Dr. Chobufo Ditah 2 hours later
Hi and thank you so much for this query. I am Dr. Ditah and feel honored to address your health questions today.

Barium swallows can pick up some cancers of the esophagus and stomach but not all of them. It is very good in cancers which grow into the lumen (creating obstruction) or those which ulcerates the walls(excavations). Barium swallow consists of wallowing a contrast liquid product which follows the contour of these hollow organs and images are taken during the process to monitor its flow. If there is protruding mass or an excavation in the esophagus or stomach cause by a cancer, then this will show up on a barium series film. This is often seen in late stages of cancer of the esophagus and stomach. However, early stages of cancers rarely present with protruding masses or ulcerations of the walls. This makes the test not very useful in the early stages.

The best test to look for esophageal and stomach cancer is endoscopy. This consist in using a magnifying camera to inspect the entire length of these organs and even do biopsies. This is the gold standard of investigating for stomach and esophageal cancers.

In summary, the answer is yes for most late stages of these cancers and rarely in the early stages. Endoscopy is better for the early stages and also good for the late stages.

I hope this answers your query fully. If you have more questions related to this, please ask them and i will be very happy addressing them.
I wish you good health.
Dr. Ditah, MD.
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