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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).
  • Although tumors can arise anywhere in the esophagus, adenocarcinoma arise more frequently in the lower portion while squamous cell carcinoma arises more frequently in the upper portion of the esophagus.
  • Other tumors types are rarely seen (lymphoma, melanoma, or sarcoma).

What Is Esophageal Cancer?

Esophageal cancer is a disease where the tissues of the tube-like structure that connects the throat to the stomach (esophagus) become malignant (cancer). Esophageal cancers may be generally termed "esophagus cancer" or more specifically termed in relation to their location and type such as "gastroesophageal junction adenocarcinoma" (meaning an adenoma located where the stomach and esophagus are connected).

What Causes Esophageal Cancers?

According to the American Cancer Society and others who treat esophageal cancers, the exact cause or causes of this disease are not known. However, researchers suspect that certain risk factors (see below) may cause DNA damage in cells that may result in the disease.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/20/2017

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Esophageal Cancer:

Esophageal Cancer - Diagnosis

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Esophageal Cancer - Symptoms and Signs

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Esophageal Cancer - Treatment

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Esophageal Cancer Symptom

Dysphagia

Dysphagia means difficulty swallowing. Odynophagia means painful swallowing. Sometimes it is not easy for individuals to distinguish between these two problems.

Dysphagia has many causes. First, there may be physical (anatomical) obstruction to the passage of food. Second, there may be abnormalities in the function (functional abnormalities) of the nerves of the brain, throat, and esophagus whose normal function is necessary to coordinate swallowing. Finally, there also may be abnormalities of the muscles of the throat and esophagus themselves.


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 »


Medical Dictionary