Esophageal cancer affects the esophagus, the tube that transports food and liquids from the throat to the stomach. Esophageal cancer usually begins in the cells that line the inside of the esophagus.
Esophageal cancer can show up in two forms.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma Esophageal Cancer is usually located in the upper and middle parts of the esophageal walls.
- Adenocarcinoma Esophageal Cancer, the type most likely to occur in people in the United States, is found in the lower portion of the esophagus.
- Difficulty swallowing or eating
- Unexplained weight loss
- Continual pain behind the breastbone
WHO IS AT RISK?
Esophageal cancer tends to be more common outside of the United States; however, those who live in the United States, and especially those who suffer from Barrett’s Esophagus, are still at risk.
Your risk for esophageal cancer also increases if you are:
- a smoker
- a man between the ages of 45 and 70
- experience frequent heartburn
- are African American
If you experience frequent heartburn, do not delay in seeing a physician. With frequent checkups and proper treatment, you may reduce your risk of esophageal cancer.
An endoscopy (EGD) helps your GI doctor evaluate the esophagus.
WHAT IS AN ENDOSCOPY?
While the patient is under sedation, the GI doctor inserts a small camera through the patient’s mouth or nose to screen the upper GI. Your doctor will biopsy any suspicious areas to test for esophageal cancer.
Treatment for esophageal cancer may involve surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of those approaches. The path of treatment depends on the type of cells, your cancer’s stage, your overall health, and preferences.