Esophageal Cancer

What is esophageal cancer? 

Esophageal cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the esophagus. It can occur anywhere along the esophagus but typically starts at the inside lining of the esophagus and spreads outward through the other layers as it grows. Esophageal cancer is often in an advanced stage when it is diagnosed.
Types of esophageal cancer include:
  • Adenocarcinoma begins in the cells of mucus-secreting glands in the esophagus. Adenocarcinoma occurs most often in the lower portion of the esophagus. 
  • Squamous cell carcinoma are flat, thin cells that line the surface of the esophagus. Squamous cell carcinoma occurs most often in the upper and middle portions of the esophagus. 
The stages of esophageal cancer are:
  • Stage in situ. Cancerous cells are visible microscopically on the lining of the esophagus but have not invaded the deeper parts of the inner lining of the esophagus.
  • Stage I. Cancer occurs in the superficial layers and has begun to invade the first layers of the inner lining of the esophagus and may have spread to nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage II. The cancer has invaded deeper muscular layers of the esophagus and may have spread to nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage III. The cancer has spread to the deepest layers of the wall of the esophagus, through the muscle layers, and to nearby tissues or lymph nodes.
  • Stage IV. The cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Risk factors
  • Tobacco use
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Older age
  • Being male
  • Being African-American
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Barrett's esophagus
  • Bile reflux
  • Undergoing radiation treatment to the chest or upper abdomen
A patient’s medical history and physical exam are used to diagnose esophageal cancer along with:
  • Using a scope to examine your esophagus (endoscopy) for cancer or areas of irritation.
  • Collecting a sample of tissue for testing (biopsy) to look for cancer cells.
When esophageal cancer is found very early, there is a better chance of recovery. At later stages, esophageal cancer can be treated but rarely can be cured. 
  • Each year about 15,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with esophageal cancer.
  • Esophageal cancer is the 6th most common cause of cancer deaths worldwide. 
about esophageal cancer

  • "Esophageal Cancer." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 04 Apr. 2017. Web. 05 May 2017.
  • "Esophageal Cancer Symptoms, Signs & Treatment." Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic, n.d. Web. 05 May 2017.
  • "Esophageal Cancer." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 Oct. 2016. Web. 05 May 2017.
  • "Esophageal Cancer." Esophageal Cancer | Johns Hopkins Medic ine Health Library. Johns Hopkins Health System, n.d. Web. 05 May 2017.
  • "Esophageal Cancer - National Library of Medicine - PubMed Health." National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 05 May 2017.
Join Dave and Courtland from healtheo360 as they talk with two esophageal cancer survivors, Terry O'Hara and Mark Speckhart. Both men went through the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Mark acted as Terry's patient advocate throughout Terry's treatment.
Mark and Terry esophageal cancer


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