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Esophageal Cancer

The esophagus is the tube that allows food to pass from the mouth to the stomach. There are two major types of cancer that can occur in the esophagus and are named for the type of cell they originate from: squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma. Other types are rare. The cause of esophageal cancer is not yet known, but there are several risk factors that make getting it more likely. These include smoking, drinking alcohol, frequent acid reflux , and obesity. Symptoms of esophageal cancer include difficulty swallowing, chest pain, and unintended weight loss.


Esophageal cancer is usually found because signs or symptoms alert the clinician to the disease. Unfortunately, symptoms typically begin when the cancer is in an advanced stage. When esophageal cancer is suspected, healthcare providers perform a detailed medical history to check for possible risk factors and learn about symptoms the patient is having. This medical history check may include a physical exam, and imaging tests such as a CT scan or barium swallow, which utilizes liquid called barium to outline the esophagus on X-ray.

Treatment Options

After esophageal cancer is diagnosed and its stage is determined, a team of physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers will discuss treatment options with the patient. Treatment considerations include the patients overall health and the extent or stage of the cancer. In general, the main types of treatment are:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Endoscopic treatments