Esophageal Cancer Overview
Esophageal cancer is a cancer that occurs in the esophagus. The esophagus is the long, hollow tube that moves food and liquid from the back of your throat to your stomach to be digested. The wall of the esophagus is made up of several layers of tissue, including mucous membrane, muscle, and connective tissue. Esophageal cancer starts in the inner lining and spreads outward through the other layers as it grows.
The two most common forms of esophageal cancer are:
Squamous cell carcinoma (also called epidermoid carcinoma): Cancer that forms in the thin, flat cells lining the inside of the esophagus. This cancer can occur anywhere along the esophagus, however, it is most often found in the upper and middle part of the esophagus.
- Adenocarcinoma: Cancer that begins in glandular cells, which produce and release fluids such as mucus. Adenocarcinomas usually begin in the lower part of the esophagus, near the stomach.
The specific causes of esophageal cancer remain uncertain. However, there are various factors that can increase your risk of developing the disease.
If you are experiencing any signs or symptoms of esophageal cancer, such as:
- Unexplained coughing or hoarseness
- Difficulty swallowing
- Pain, pressure, or burning in the chest
- Unexpected weight loss
- Worsening indigestion or heartburn
Your doctor may use one or more tests or procedures in order to diagnose esophageal cancer, including an esophagoscopy
You and your oncologist will work together to decide on the cancer treatment that’s best for you, based on the stage of your esophageal cancer and other factors. Treatment options can include:
- Radiation therapy
- Chemoradiation therapy
- Laser therapy
Visit the National Cancer Institute where this information and more can be found about esophageal cancer or ask your cancer care team questions about your individual situation.