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Esophageal Cancer Information

  • Published: 2009-04-01 (Revised/Updated 2011-05-25) : Sally Rider.
  • Synopsis: Esophageal cancer originates from the lining of the esophagus and presents as either squamous cell carcinoma or adenocarcinoma.

Main Document

Esophageal cancer originates from the lining of the esophagus and presents as either squamous cell carcinoma (cancer that begins in flat cells lining the esophagus) or adenocarcinoma (cancer that begins in cells that make and release mucus and other fluids).

Alternate Names: Adenocarcinoma of the Esophagus, Squamous cell carcinoma of the Esophagus

Esophageal cancer spreads extensively through the esophagus and often extends far beyond the edges of the primary tumor (distant metastases).

The cancer generally presents as an obstruction to swallowing with complaints of difficulty swallowing.

The definitive test for esophageal cancer is esophagoscopy with visualization of the cancer and biopsy.

Testing used to determine the causes of symptoms include a barium swallow (esophagram) generally done with a series of x-rays of the esophagus, esophagoscopy (also called endoscopy) testing that examines the inside of the esophagus using a thin lighted tube called an endoscope and a biopsy.

Testing used to determine whether the cancer has spread includes a CT (CAT) scan of the chest, abdomen and pelvis, a PET scan, a bone scan and a bronchoscopy.

Historically, treatment of esophageal cancer has been surgery. Recent multimodality therapy with radiation, chemotherapy and surgery has begun to play a major role in treatment.

The prognosis for esophageal cancer is not good regardless of the treatment employed.

When esophageal cancer is found very early, there is a better chance of recovery.

Esophageal cancer is often in an advanced stage when it is diagnosed.

At later stages, esophageal cancer can be treated but rarely can be cured.

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