What is esophageal cancer?
Esophageal cancer is a malignancy that develops in tissues lining the hollow, muscular canal (esophagus) along which food and liquid travel from the throat to the stomach. Esophageal cancers originate in the inner layers of the lining of the
esophagus and grow outward. In time, they can obstruct the passage of food and liquid, making swallowing painful and difficult.
The esophagus carries swallowed food to the stomach using a coordinated muscular effort. There is a muscular door called a sphincter between the esophagus and the stomach. Esophageal cancer can start anywhere along the lining of the esophagus. It begins in the inside lining. It then grows through the muscular wall of the esophagus. It can spread to other parts of the body through the blood or lymphatic system.
Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of esophageal cancer. It can develop at any point along the esophagus, whose entire length is normally lined with thin, flat squamous cells that resemble tiny roof shingles. Although squamous cell carcinoma once accounted for nearly 90% of all esophageal cancers, it now represents 50–60%.
Adenocarcinoma originates in glandular tissue not normally present in the lining of the esophagus. Before adenocarcinoma can develop, glandular cells must replace a section of squamous cells. Known as Barrett's esophagus, this precancerous condition is characterized by chronic acid reflux, in which acids and other digestive juices escape from the stomach, flow backward into the esophagus, and may cause heartburn.
More information on esophageal cancer
What is esophageal cancer? - Esophageal cancer is a malignancy that develops in tissues lining the hollow, muscular canal. Cancer of the esophagus is also called esophageal cancer.
What causes esophageal cancer? - Esophageal cancer can result after many years of irritation to the esophagus. The use of both alcohol and tobacco significantly increase risk.
What're the risk factors for esophageal cancer? - People who smoke cigarettes, chew tobacco, and drink alcohol are at a higher risk for this cancer. Risk factors for esophageal cancer include age, sex, alcohol use.
What're symptoms of cancer of the esophagus? - Early-stage esophageal cancer may have no symptoms. Dysphagia is the most common symptom. Spread to bones may cause pain.
How is esophageal cancer diagnosed? - A barium swallow is usually the first test performed on a patient whose symptoms suggest esophageal cancer.
What're the stages of esophageal cancer? - Staging esophageal cancer is a careful attempt to find out whether the cancer has spread. Knowing the stage of the disease helps the doctor plan treatment.
What's the treatment for esophageal cancer? - Treatment for esophageal cancer depends on a number of factors, including the size, location, and extent of the tumor, and the general health of the patient.
How to prevent esophageal cancer? - The best way to prevent esophageal cancer is to avoid tobacco and alcohol. Eating more fruits and vegetables.