Esophageal cancer is a malignant tumor of the esophagus, the muscular tube that moves food from the mouth to the stomach. There are two major types of esophageal cancers: squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma.
Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms of esophageal cancer include:
- Backward movement of food through the esophagus and possibly mouth
- Chest pain not related to eating
- Vomiting blood
- Weight loss
- Difficulty in swallowing solids or liquids
Its major causes are:
- Age – people above 60 years of age are more likely to develop esophageal cancer
- Sex – This problem is more common in men
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Thermal injury as a result of drinking hot beverages
- Tobacco smoking
- Heavy alcohol
- Coeliac disease
What treatments you receive for esophageal cancer are based on the type of cells involved in your cancer, your cancer's stage, your overall health and your preferences for treatment.
Surgery to remove the cancer can be used alone or in combination with other treatments. Operations used to treat esophageal cancer include:
- Surgery to remove very small tumors. If your cancer is very small, confined to the superficial layers of your esophagus and hasn't spread, your surgeon may recommend removing the cancer and margin of healthy tissue that surrounds it. Surgery can be done using an endoscope passed down your throat and into your esophagus.
- Surgery to remove a portion of the esophagus (esophagectomy). During esophagectomy, your surgeon removes the portion of your esophagus that contains the tumor, along with a portion of the upper part of your stomach, and nearby lymph nodes. The remaining esophagus is reconnected to your stomach. Usually this is done by pulling the stomach up to meet the remaining esophagus.
- Surgery to remove part of your esophagus and the upper portion of your stomach (esophagogastrectomy). During esophagogastrectomy, your surgeon removes part of your esophagus, nearby lymph nodes and a larger part of your stomach. The remainder of your stomach is then pulled up and reattached to your esophagus. If necessary, part of your colon is used to help join the two.
Treatments for esophageal obstruction and difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) can include:
Treatments for complications
Esophageal cancer surgery carries a risk of serious complications, such as infection, bleeding and leakage from the area where the remaining esophagus is reattached to the stomach.
Surgery to remove your esophagus can be performed as an open procedure using large incisions or with special surgical tools inserted through several small incisions in your skin (laparoscopically). How your surgery is performed depends on your individual situation and your surgeon's particular approach to managing it.
- Relieving esophageal obstruction: If your esophageal cancer has narrowed your esophagus, a surgeon may use an endoscope and special tools to place a metal tube (stent) to hold the esophagus open. Other options include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, laser therapy and photodynamic therapy.
- Providing nutrition: Your doctor may recommend a feeding tube if you're having trouble swallowing or if you're having esophagus surgery. A feeding tube allows nutrition to be delivered directly to your stomach or small intestine, giving your esophagus time to heal after cancer treatment