About Esophageal Cancer
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and adenocarcinoma account for over 95 percent of esophageal malignant tumors. For most of the 20th century, SCC has predominated. In the 1960s, SCC accounted for more than 90 percent of all esophageal tumors in the United States, and adenocarcinomas were considered so uncommon that some authorities questioned their existence.
However, over time, the incidence of esophageal adenocarcinoma (predominantly arising in the distal esophagus and esophagogastric junction) has increased dramatically in Western countries such that adenocarcinoma now accounts for over 60 percent of all esophageal cancers in the United States.
Patients with advanced thoracic or cervical esophageal carcinoma usually present with progressive dysphagia and weight loss. Early intramucosal adenocarcinomas of the distal esophagus that are recognized at endoscopy in an area of Barrett’s esophagus are not specifically symptomatic.
Early on, people might not notice any symptoms. They might find out they have esophageal cancer after a test for another condition. When people have symptoms from esophageal cancer, they might have:
- Trouble swallowing, especially solid, dry foods – this gets worse over time.
- Weight loss
- Pain or a burning feeling in the chest
- A hoarse voice
All these symptoms can also be caused by conditions that are not cancer. But if you have these symptoms, tell a doctor or nurse.
The evaluation may include contrast-enhanced computed tomography (CT) of the neck, chest, and abdomen, whole-body integrated fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) positron emission tomography (PET)/CT, EUS, and/or diagnostic laparoscopy.
- Surgery – Esophageal cancer can be treated with surgery to remove the cancer. If your doctor needs to remove part of your esophagus during surgery, he or she will reconnect your esophagus and stomach so that you can swallow food.
- Radiation therapy – Radiation kills cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is the medical term for medicines that kill cancer cells or stop them from growing.
- Immunotherapy – This is the term doctors use for medicines that work with the body’s infection-fighting system (the “immune system”) to stop cancer growth.