Esophageal cancer is cancer that develops in the esophagus, which is the long hollow tube in the digestive tract that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. While new cells constantly grow when old ones die, sometimes they will grow when the body does not need them, and may form a growth or tumor. Growths in the wall of the esophagus may be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous), but should be examined by a doctor either way. If left untreated, malignant tumors can spread to other parts of the body and cause serious complications such as an obstructed esophagus, bleeding or severe weight loss.
There are several different types of esophageal cancer, classified by the type of cells involved. The most common types of esophageal cancer are adenocarcinomas, which are most common and develop in the mucus-secreting glands, and squamous cell carcinomas, which develop in the cells that line the surface of the esophagus.
Risk Factors of Esophageal Cancer
Although the specific cause of esophageal cancer is unknown, there are certain factors that may increase a patient's risk of developing the condition. Some of these factors may include:
- Excessive consumption of alcohol or chewing tobacco
- Eating a diet low in fruits and vegetable
- Being over the age of 65
- Having gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Radiation treatment performed on the chest or upper abdomen
Signs and Symptoms of Esophageal Cancer
Early cases of esophageal cancer may not cause any symptoms, but as the disease progresses, patients may experience:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Weight loss
- Chest pain
- Hoarse voice or cough lasting more than 2 weeks
Although these symptoms may be caused by another, less severe condition, patients should see their doctor if they have persistent, worrisome symptoms. If esophageal cancer is suspected, your doctor may perform a series of tests, including an X-ray, biopsy and endoscopy to examine the lining of the esophagus for cancer or other signs of irritation. Once diagnosed, your doctor will try to determine the stage of the condition in order to take the appropriate treatment measures. Staging is done through CT or PET scanning.
Treatment of Esophageal Cancer
Treatment for esophageal cancer can vary depending on the stage and severity of the condition, as well as the patient's overall health. Treatment often includes surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a combination of these. Surgery is often successful in removing the cancerous tumors, as well as any other nearby affected tissue. Surgery for esophageal cancer may remove just the tumor, or part or all of the esophagus and stomach, in order to ensure that the disease has been thoroughly eradicated from the body.
To learn more about our Esophageal Cancer Services, please contact us at (516) 627-5262 today to schedule an appointment.