Esophageal cancer (the tumor)

Throat | Oncology | Esophageal cancer (the tumor) (Disease)


A person with esophageal cancer has abnormal cells in the esophagus that multiply out of control. These cells can form tumors and spread to other parts of the body. Esophageal cancer can be very difficult to treat. By the time it is detected, it has usually spread to other parts of the body.

There are two main types of esophageal cancer. The most common type of esophageal cancer, known as adenocarcinoma, develops in the glandular tissue in the lower part of the esophagus, near the opening of the stomach. It occurs in just over 50 percent of cases. Squamous cell carcinoma grows in the cells that form the top layer of the lining of the esophagus, known as squamous cells. This type of cancer can grow anywhere along the esophagus.

Symptoms of esophageal cancer include difficulty swallowing, vomiting after meals, vomiting blood, heartburn, chest pain, abdominal pain, and weight loss.

Causes and Risk factors

Risk factors for esophageal cancer include heavy alcohol use, smoking, and a condition called Barretts esophagus. The esophagus, located just behind the trachea, is about 10 to 13 inches in length and allows food to enter the stomach for digestion. The wall of the esophagus is made up of several layers and cancers generally start from the inner layer and grow out. The cause of esophageal cancer is unknown, but genetics may play a role in determining risk.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Treatment for both types of esophageal cancer is similar. If the cancer only involves the esophagus surgery may be the only treatment needed. For more advanced cases chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy is also performed. If the cancer is far advanced only palliative treatment is given. ...

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