Esophageal cancer is a form of cancer that develops in the esophagus, which is a long, hollow tube that connects the throat to the stomach. The esophagus moves the food down to the stomach for digestion.
The cancer begins in the inner layer of the esophagus and can spread to other parts of the body and other layers of the esophagus. It is the sixth leading cause of cancer-related death globally. Tobacco and alcohol use, as well as specific food habits and obesity, may be linked to greater risks of esophageal cancer in some populations.
Types of Esophagus Cancer
Squamous cell carcinoma: This type begins in squamous cells (thin, flat cells that line the esophagus) and is most common in the upper and middle sections.
Symptoms of Esophageal cancer
- Difficulty swallowing
- Unexplained loss of weight
- Pain in the chest
- Hoarseness or coughing
- Heartburn and indigestion
Note: Esophagus cancer at early stages may show no symptoms.
Risk Factors for esophageal cancer
- Tobacco use (smoking or otherwise)
- Drinking too much alcohol
- GERD or, Gastroesophageal reflux disease – a condition in which the contents and acid from the stomach reflux into the esophagus.
- Barrett’s esophagus is a disorder that affects the bottom region of the esophagus and can progress to esophageal cancer; it may be induced by GERD. Stomach acid in the esophagus can affect the cells in the esophagus over time, increasing the risks for adenocarcinoma.
- Esophageal cancer is also more common in certain groups, such as men, the elderly, and obese individuals.
When to visit a Doctor
If you have any persistent signs and symptoms that concern you, schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Barrett’s esophagus, a precancerous condition caused by chronic acid reflux, increases your chances of developing esophageal cancer. Inquire with your doctor about the signs and symptoms that may indicate that your condition is deteriorating.
Barrett’s esophagus patients may benefit from esophageal cancer screening. If you have Barrett’s esophagus, talk to your doctor about the benefits and drawbacks of screening.