Esophageal cancer occurs in the esophagus — a long, hollow tube that runs from your throat to your stomach. Your esophagus helps move the food you swallow from the back of your throat to your stomach to be digested. Esophageal cancer usually begins in the cells that line the inside of the esophagus. Esophageal cancer can occur anywhere along the esophagus. More men than women get esophageal cancer.
What are the types of esophageal cancer?
Esophageal cancer treatment is classified according to the type of cells that are involved. The type of esophageal cancer you have helps determine your treatment options. Types of esophageal cancer include:
Adenocarcinoma. Adenocarcinoma begins in the cells of mucus-secreting glands in the esophagus. Adenocarcinoma occurs most often in the lower portion of the esophagus. Adenocarcinoma is the most common form of esophageal cancer in the United States, affecting primarily white men.
Squamous cell carcinoma. The squamous cells are flat, thin cells that line the surface of the esophagus. Squamous cell carcinoma occurs most often in the upper and middle portions of the esophagus. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most prevalent esophageal cancer worldwide.
Other rare types. Some rare esophageal cancer forms include small cell carcinoma, sarcoma, lymphoma, melanoma, and choriocarcinoma.
What are the causes?
Esophageal cancer occurs when cells in the esophagus develop changes (mutations) in their DNA. The changes make cells grow and divide out of control. The accumulating abnormal cells form a tumor in the esophagus that can grow to invade nearby structures and spread to other parts of the body.
Signs and symptoms of esophageal cancer include:
Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
Weight loss without trying
Chest pain, pressure, or burning
Worsening indigestion or heartburn
Coughing or hoarseness
Early esophageal cancer typically causes no signs or symptoms.
Tests and procedures used to diagnose esophageal cancer include:
Barium swallow study. During this study, you swallow a liquid that provides barium and then undergo X-rays.
Using a scope to examine your esophagus (endoscopy). During endoscopy, your doctor passes a flexible tube equipped with a video lens down your throat and into your esophagus.
Collecting a sample of tissue for testing (biopsy). Your doctor may use an extraordinary scope passed down your throat into your esophagus (endoscope) to order a sample of suspicious tissue (biopsy).
What esophageal treatments drugs/ esophageal medicine you receive for esophageal cancer are based on the type of cells involved in your cancer, your cancer's stage, your overall health, and your treatment preferences.
Esophageal cancer surgery carries a risk of serious complications, such as infection, bleeding, and leakage from the area where the remaining esophagus is reattached to the stomach.
Surgery to remove your esophagus can be performed as an open procedure using large incisions or special surgical tools inserted through several small incisions in your skin (laparoscopically).