Esophageal cancer occurs in the esophagus, which is the tube that connects the throat to the stomach and moves food into your stomach to be digested. While it can develop anywhere in the esophagus, esophageal cancer most commonly occurs in the cells lining the inside of the esophagus, and it is more common in men when compared to women.
Esophageal cancer medical illustration
Globally, esophageal cancer is the sixth most deadly form of cancer. There are regional variations in the prevalence of this cancer, with some regions having higher rates due to smoking, alcohol abuse, nutritional habits, and obesity.
What causes esophageal cancer?
There is no clear answer for what causes esophageal cancer, but people who have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or a condition called Barrett’s esophagus, which leads to precancerous changes in the cells of the esophagus, are at risk. Other factors like smoking, alcohol use, obesity, and a lack of fruits and vegetables in the diet can also increase the risk of esophageal cancer.
What is the treatment for esophageal cancer?
Treatment may involve surgery to remove tumors, or surgery to remove a portion of the esophagus, or a portion of both the esophagus and the stomach. You may require additional treatments, such as receiving food through a feeding tube while the esophagus heals, or having a stent placed to open a narrowed esophagus. Other treatment options include chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, and targeted drug therapy. A doctor will work with you to determine the best course of treatment, depending on your health, preferences, and the type and stage of your cancer.
What are the complications of esophageal cancer?
You may experience complications, such as pain and bleeding. Cancer can also cause blockages in the esophagus, making it hard to swallow food and liquid.
- “In the early stages, I had no symptoms, but I began to experience a worsening of my usual bouts of heartburn.”
- “I felt burning and pressure in my chest, and I was losing weight without being on a diet.”
- “I developed a bad cough, and I had difficulty swallowing during meals.”