Esophageal cancer is cancer of the esophagus, which is the tube in which food and liquids pass from the throat to the stomach. The esophagus is divided into distal, middle, and upper sections. There are two main types of esophageal cancer: adenocarcinoma and squamous cell. Esophageal cancer is the 6th most common cause of cancer-related deaths globally and 7th in the United States. Unfortunately, there are not any screening tests to detect this cancer early. Therefore, individuals need to recognize symptoms early and seek care from their providers sooner than later.
Risk Factors May Include:
Being male increases risk 2-3 times
Individuals with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater increase one’s risk 16-fold
Heavy alcohol use
Diagnosis of GERD (Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease)
Diagnosed with HPV (human papillomavirus)
Signs & Symptoms
Signs and symptoms are different for each patient. It’s important to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your physician. They may include:
Difficulty swallowing or the sensation of food getting stuck
Unexplained weight loss
Hoarseness and/or persistent cough
Indigestion and/or sour acid taste in the back of the throat
Blood in sputum
Pain or tenderness behind the breastbone or chest
Screening & Diagnostic Testing
Screening and diagnostic testing will include a physical exam and various tests such as endoscopy, bronchoscopy, or flexible laryngoscopy to examine the anatomy of the esophagus and nearby structures. If tissue appears suspicious, a biopsy may be taken to be further examined under a microscope. To help facilitate diagnosis, radiological exams such as chest X-ray, a CT scan, or a PET scan may be ordered.
Helpful Patient Resources:
We understand that receiving a cancer diagnosis can be a very scary and an emotional time for patients and their families. It is very important to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your oncologist. We highly recommend that if you do any research about your disease, you do so only with reputable sources. For your convenience, we’ve listed some below.