Your Source for Esophageal Cancer Care

The esophagus is the long tube that’s responsible for moving food from the throat to the stomach. Esophageal cancer can occur when a malignant (cancerous) tumor forms in the lining of the esophagus. As the tumor grows, it can affect the deep tissues and muscle of the esophagus. Esophageal cancer is serious, but it can be treated. The earlier the cancer is detected, the better the prospects for the patient.

Types of Esophageal Cancer

There are two common types of esophageal cancer:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma: This cancer forms in the cells lining the inner esophagus. This form most often appears in the top or middle of the esophagus, but it can occur anywhere.This cancer is slow growing but can still spread to other areas.
  • Adenocarcinoma: This cancer forms in the gland cells of the esophagus that are responsible for the production of fluids such as mucus. It usually occurs in the lower esophagus and is more likely to develop in people with high acid concentration.

Causes of Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer is more common in people who have had recurring problems in the throat, stomach, and/or esophagus. The more the cells in the esophagus are irritated, the greater the risk for esophageal cancer. However, other conditions, traits or habits may also play a role in raising your risk for this disease. These conditions are known as risk factors and include:

Non-modifiable risk factors: These factors are irreversible and cannot be changed. The more of these risk factors you have, the greater your chance of developing this disease.

  • Family history/Genetics

Modifiable risk factors: These factors can be modified, treated or controlled through medications or lifestyle changes.

  • Excessive amounts of alcohol consumption over the years
  • Obesity or having a body mass index “BMI” of 30 or greater
  • Long history of cigarette smoking and/or drug abuse
  • Drinking very hot liquids on a regular basis
  • Diet lacking in fruits and vegetables

Other conditions that contribute to Esophageal Cancer

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Barrett’s esophagus
  • Achalasia and other swallowing difficulties

Symptoms of Esophageal Cancer

The early stages of esophageal cancer do not usually present any noticeable symptoms. However, as the esophageal cancer grows, the following symptoms may occur:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chest pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Increased rate of heartburn and indigestion

Stages of Esophageal Cancer

There are five stages of esophageal cancer. A patient’s chances of a full recovery are better when diagnosed in the earlier stages:

  • Stage 0 – Abnormal cells that are not yet cancers have appeared in the esophagus
  • Stage 1 – Cancer cells can be found in the lining of the esophagus
  • Stage 2 – Cancer cells have reached the muscles in the outer wall of the esophagus
  • Stage 3 – Cancer cells have reached the deep muscle layer of the esophagus and is poised to spread to other organs
  • Stage 4 – The most advanced cancer stage, at this point the cancer has spread to other organs and/or the organs

Diagnosis of Esophageal Cancer

Your doctor will most likely perform a physical exam, ask about your symptoms, and ask about your risk factors, among others items. After that, you may have:

Diagnostic tests and procedures

  • Upper endoscopy with tissue biopsy
  • Endoscopic ultrasound
  • Computed tomography (CT scans)
  • Positon-emission tomography (PET)

Treatment of Esophageal Cancer

It is difficult to diagnose esophageal cancer in the earliest stages, but knowing your risk factors and scheduling screenings with your provider do make it possible. Treatment will depend on what stage the cancer has reached. Treatment options include:

Lifestyle changes

  • Avoid smoking
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet, especially one that is low in salt.
  • Exercise under the directions of your doctor.
  • If you’re overweight, talk to your doctor about weight-loss options.
  • Limiting alcohol consumption to 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men.
  • Manage stress
  • Make and keep appointments to see your doctor for routine check-ups and follow-up tests.

Medical and Surgical procedures

The cancer specialists at RWJBarnabas Health are at the forefront of adenocarcinoma and squamous cell esophageal cancer diagnosis and treatment. As New Jersey’s leading cancer hospital system, we have the resources you need to fight esophageal cancer close to home.

To contact one of New Jersey’s best lung and thoracic cancer specialists call
844-CANCERNJ or 844-226-2376.

Patient Stories

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