Esophageal cancer, also known as cancer of the esophagus, is a type of cancer that starts in the cells lining the esophagus, which is the tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach. Esophageal cancer is a relatively uncommon cancer, but it is often aggressive and difficult to treat.
The two main types of esophageal cancer are squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. Squamous cell carcinoma usually starts in the cells lining the upper part of the esophagus, while adenocarcinoma typically starts in the lower part of the esophagus, near the stomach.
Esophageal cancer often does not cause symptoms in its early stages, and symptoms may not appear until the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Common symptoms of esophageal cancer include difficulty swallowing, chest pain, weight loss, and coughing up blood.
Risk factors for esophageal cancer include smoking, heavy alcohol use, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), Barrett’s esophagus (a condition in which the cells lining the esophagus are abnormal), obesity, and a diet low in fruits and vegetables.
Diagnosis of esophageal cancer may involve a physical examination, imaging tests such as a CT scan or endoscopy, and a biopsy of the affected tissue. Treatment options for esophageal cancer may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of these treatments, depending on the stage and location of the cancer.