The esophagus is the hollow, muscular tube that moves food and liquid from the throat to the stomach. Several layers of tissue including mucous membrane, muscle and connective tissue form the esophagus.
Esophageal cancer usually begins in the cells that line the inside of the esophagus and spreads outward through other layers as it grows. Esophageal cancer can occur anywhere along the esophagus, but is most commonly found in the lower portion of the esophagus.
Esophageal cancers are classified according to the type of cells that are involved. The type of esophageal cancer you have determines your treatment options.
Esophageal Cancer Types
Types of esophageal cancer include:
- Adenocarcinoma - Adenocarcinoma begins in the cells of mucus-secreting glands in the esophagus. It occurs most often in the lower portion of the esophagus and is the most common form of esophageal cancer in the United States.
- Squamous cell carcinoma - Squamous cells are flat, thin cells that line the surface of the esophagus. Squamous cell carcinoma occurs most often in the middle of the esophagus and is the most common form of esophageal cancer worldwide.
- Rare esophageal cancers - Rare forms of esophageal cancer include lymphoma, melanoma, sarcoma and small cell cancer.
Esophageal Cancer Risk Factors
- Tobacco use
- Heavy alcohol use
- Barrett esophagus: A condition in which the cells lining the lower part of the esophagus have changed or been replaced with abnormal cells that could lead to cancer of the esophagus. Gastric reflux (the backing up of stomach contents into the lower section of the esophagus) may irritate the esophagus and over time, cause Barrett esophagus.
Esophageal Cancer Symptoms
|These and other symptoms may be caused by esophageal cancer or by other conditions. A doctor should be consulted if any of the following problems occur:
- Painful or difficult swallowing
- Weight loss
- Pain behind the breastbone
- Hoarseness and cough
- Indigestion and heartburn
Focus on the Patient
Communication with patients and caregivers is an important priority at Levine Cancer Institute. We believe that treating the whole person, not just the disease, is best for patients and family members.
At Levine Cancer Institute, we offer a broad range of emotional support programs designed to help patients and family members cope with the range of issues related to life during and after cancer treatment.
Our GI Cancer Clinic also offers second opinion consultations.
For more information about Levine Cancer Institute, call 980-442-2000.