Oncology

Esophageal Cancer

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Learn the risk factors!

The esophagus is a tube that is used to transport food and liquids from the throat to the stomach. Tumors typically start in the innermost layer of the esophagus. While there are a number of risk factors that may cause esophageal cancer, chronic irritation of the esophagus is typically the leading contributor. When the cells in your esophagus develop mutations in their DNA, a tumor may develop, causing cancer. The type of cells involved will be a determining factor of the type of esophageal cancer and treatment options. 

Risk Factors

The following are the most common risk factors for esophageal cancer.

  • Age: Esophageal cancer is most often diagnosed in people over age 50.
  • Gender: Esophageal cancer is more common in men than women.
  • Tobacco and alcohol use: Use of tobacco in any form can increase your risk of developing esophageal cancer, particularly squamous cell carcinoma. The same is true of heavy use of alcohol over a long period of time.
  • Barrett’s esophagusThe long-term reflux of acid from the stomach into the esophagus caused by Barrett’s esophagus increases the risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma.
  • Race: Adenocarcinoma is more common in white men than men of other races, while squamous cell cancer of the esophagus is more common among African Americans than whites.
  • Obesity: Being overweight is a risk factor
  • Ingestion of lye: Accidental ingestion of cleaning liquids containing lye may increase your chances of getting squamous cell esophageal cancer, especially if the accident occurred in childhood.
  • Vitamin deficiencies: Some studies have linked esophageal cancer to deficiencies in beta-carotene, vitamin E, selenium, or iron.

Esophageal Cancer Symptoms

Trouble Swallowing

Of all symptoms of esophageal cancer, difficulty swallowing is typically the most common. You may experience a minor issue swallowing at first that will continue to get worse as the opening inside the esophagus becomes smaller.

Pain in Your Chest

Typically this pain will be associated with the swallowing of food, causing a severe pressure in the middle of your chest. However, due to the common nature of other issues such as heartburn, chest pain is not often seen as a symptom of cancer at first.

Weight Loss

Nearly 50% of people with esophageal cancer will lose weight due to lack of interest in eating (related to dysphagia), or an increase in overall metabolism.

Esophageal Bleeding

If you are experiencing bleeding in your stool, along with any of the other potential symptoms above, contact your internist immediately.

Persistent Cough or Hoarseness

Usually a symptom of advanced esophageal cancer, hoarseness may be accompanied by frequent hiccuping or vomiting blood.

While many of the symptoms associated with esophageal cancer mimic other medical issues, it is important to be aware of any abnormalities in your health. If you are experiencing a number of symptoms and feel that you are at risk for esophageal cancer, contact your physician or CareMount Medical immediately for an appointment.

Diagnosis

In order to properly diagnose esophageal cancer, some of the following steps may be taken:

Image Guided Biopsy

Most commonly upper endoscopy is performed to allow doctors to look into the esophagus to determine the presence of cancer which can then be biopsied during the procedure.

Imaging Tests and Scans

Other imaging tests such as X-Rays, PET scans, CT scans, and MRIs may be ordered to better detect the presence of cancer.

Types of Esophageal Cancer

Type of Cancer Description
Adenocarcinoma This type of cancer starts in the cells of the mucus-secreting glands inside the esophagus and it the most common form of esophageal cancer in the U.S.
Squamous cell carcinoma This type of cancer begins in the upper and middle areas of the esophagus. These cells line the surface of the esophagus. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of esophageal cancer worldwide
Rare Types In addition to the two main types mentioned above, there are other forms including small cell carcinoma, sarcoma, lymphoma, melanoma, and choriocarcinoma. Depending which cells are affected, the treatment options will vary.

Esophageal Cancer Treatment

After observing and diagnosing the type of cancer, you will be given treatment options with the guidance of your oncologist.

  • Surgery – including minimally invasive robotic esophagectomy may be performed to remove the cancer.
  • Radiation therapy and chemotherapy – may be used in addition to or instead of surgery. Endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR) – minimally invasive technique that may be used during upper endoscopy at very early stages of the cancer to remove the tumor without requiring removal of the entire esophagus.

Schedule a Consultation

To schedule an appointment or obtain a second opinion on your diagnosis, please call the CareMount Medical Cancer Center Referral Line at 1-844-484-3292.

 

Esophageal Cancer Providers