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Esophageal Cancer (Cancer of the Esophagus)

Esophageal Cancer Facts

The esophagus is a muscular tube measuring 20-25 cm (8-10 in) long and 2-3 cm (0.75-1.25 in) wide that serves as a conduit for moving food and drink from the mouth to the stomach. Two major types of esophageal cancers exist, as follows:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma arises from the surface (epithelial) cells that line the esophagus.
  • Adenocarcinoma arises from the esophageal glands or within a segment of Barrett's esophagus (see below).
  • Most tumors occur in the lower esophagus.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/28/2014
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The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Esophageal Cancer:

Esophageal Cancer - Diagnosis

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Esophageal Cancer - Symptoms and Signs

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How Is Esophageal Cancer Treated?

As with many cancers, esophageal cancer treatment has a greater chance of success if the cancer is caught early. Unfortunately, by the time esophageal cancer is diagnosed for many people, it is often already in an advanced state (has spread throughout the esophagus and beyond).

Treatment of esophageal cancer depends on many factors, including the stage of the cancer and the overall health of the patient.

  • Surgery. Part or all of the esophagus may be removed.
  • Radiation therapy. Kills cancer cells with radiation.
  • Chemotherapy. Powerful drugs that target cancer cells throughout the body. Typically used in combination with radiation therapy and/or surgery.

Endoscopic treatments that may be done to treat precancers or very small, early cancers include endoscopic mucosal resection to remove the inner lining of the esophagus, laser ablation to kill cancer cells directly, photodynamic therapy that can target cancer cells with a special laser light, and electrocoagulation, which uses electric current to destroy cancer cells.

In addition, your doctor may recommend that you take part in a clinical trial, in which new drugs or treatments are tested in patients. The success of these tests helps determine if the drugs or treatments will be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.


WebMD Medical Reference

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Esophageal Cancer »

Esophageal carcinoma was well described at the beginning of the 19th century, and the first successful resection was performed in 1913 by Frank Torek.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

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