Esophageal cancer: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Key takeaways: The formation of cancer cells in the Esophagus is more common in men than in women.

Alcohol and smoking are two of the most common reasons for Esophageal cancer.

Esophageal Cancer is a form of cancer which arises in the oesophagus (Food Pipe). It is also called esophageal carcinoma. It is a cancerous (menacing) tumour of the oesophagus.

This article will tell you all about Esophageal Cancer, including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.

What is Esophagus?

The esophagus is a muscular pipe that carries food and liquids from the throat to the stomach (Food Pipe). The esophagus is a muscular tube that moves food and liquids from the throat to the stomach to be digested. It is situated behind the windpipe (trachea) and heart and in front of the spinal cord.

What is Esophageal Cancer?

Esophageal cancer generally arises in the cells that cover the inside of the esophagus. It can take place anywhere alongside the esophagus.


Types of Esophageal Cancer

  1. Adenocarcinoma – It starts in the cells of mucus-secreting glands in esophagus and most of the time occurs in lower part of esophagus.
  2. Squamous cell cancer– It suppers to lymph knobs in the neck and it are not known where the cancer first formed in the body. Signs and symptoms of this type of esophageal cancer include a lump or pain in the neck or throat.
  3. Undifferentiated Cancer – In this type a specialist cannot decide what type of cell the caner has started from. This is because the cells are immature to be particular. Specialization of cells is called differentiation or distinguishes. So these nascent cells are known as Undifferentiated Cells.
  4. Rare Cancers – Other rare cancer types can take place in esophagus are;

What are the Symptoms of Esophageal Cancer?

  • Discomfort with swallowing
  • Burden or burning in the chest
  • Indigestion or heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Coughing or throatiness
  • Pain behind the breastbone or in the throat

Initially, swallowing solids is difficult. Over time, swallowing liquids also becomes troublesome.

Diagnosis of Esophageal Cancer

Below mentioned Tests that help diagnose esophageal cancer may include:

  • Barium swallow
  • Chest MRI or thoracic CT Scan (helps define the stage of the ailment)
  • Endoscopic ultrasound (to define the stage of ailment)
  • Esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) and biopsy
  • PET scan (useful for defining the stage of ailment, and whether surgical procedure is possible)
  • Stool testing may show small amounts of blood in the stool.

What Causes Esophageal Cancer?

It occurs most often in men over 50 years old. The lifestyle factors such as obesity and smoking tobacco are major causes of Esophageal Cancer. Being Overweight or obese surges your risk.

Our risk rises a lot if you smoke. Smoking and poorly controlled acid reflux are substantial risk factors for esophageal cancer. So quitting smoking is a way to stay away from Cancer.

Is esophageal cancer curable?

In most cases, oesophagal cancer is a treatable ailment, but it is hardly curable.

The patient’s life span varies from 5 years to 15 years after taking an apt treatment. Some live for five years and some for 15 years depending upon the stages of the illness.

If cancer has affected the only oesophagus and has not spread, surgery can be done. Cancer and part, or all, of the oesophagus, is removed.

Radiation therapy can be used instead of surgery in some cases where cancer has not spread exterior of the oesophagus.

Either chemotherapy, radiation, or both can be used to diminish the tumour and make surgery easier to execute.

If the patient is too unwell to have a major surgical procedure or cancer has spread to other body parts, chemotherapy or radiation can be used to help diminish indications. This is called palliative therapy. In such cases, the disease is not curable.


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