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Esophageal Cancer

What is esophageal cancer?

Esophageal cancer (cancer of the esophagus) affects the tube that connects your stomach to your throat. This type of cancer generally develops as either a squamous cell carcinoma or an adenocarcinoma. Other possible types include lymphoma, melanoma, sarcoma, choriocarcinoma and small cell cancer.

Esophageal cancer is rare in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates approximately 16,910 new esophageal cancer cases will be diagnosed in 2016, affecting approximately three to four times more men than women. Diagnosis rates have remained steady for many years, but survival rates have improved over the decades.

The cause of esophageal cancer is not fully understood. However, “cancer” describes a process in which the DNA in certain cells mutates, growing and dividing rapidly as they form tumors, which can spread throughout the body.

What are the risk factors for esophageal cancer?

Chronic irritation of the esophagus is believed to be one of the primary risk factors. If your esophagus is frequently irritated, it’s important to limit these factors, as possible:

  • Alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • Bile reflux
  • Drinking hot liquids
  • Eating a diet low in fruits and vegetables
  • Being obese
  • Achalasia
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Barrett’s esophagus
  • Radiation therapy in the upper abdomen/chest

Are there symptoms of esophageal cancer?

Symptoms of esophageal cancer may include:

  • Chronic coughing or hoarseness
  • Chest pain/pressure/burning sensation
  • Frequent choking
  • Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Indigestion or heartburn that does not respond to dietary changes or medications

How do you screen for and detect esophageal cancer?

Screening may begin with physical exam and review of the patient’s medical history. A chest x-ray may help the physician see internal structures that could be causing symptoms. A barium swallow could be used to improve x-ray visibility. If these tests prompt further investigation, the physician may use esophagoscopy (a small tube that enters the mouth or nose to view the esophagus and possibly remove samples). Learn more about biopsy for detecting and diagnosing cancer. [LINK TO ‘Biopsy’ PAGE]

The Stages of Esophageal Cancer

Physicians at Jordan Valley Cancer Center use several stages to describe esophageal cancer. Staging the cancer is an important step in diagnosing and treating it. Esophageal cancer is staged in this way…

  • Stage 0: In this stage, abnormal cells are found in the mucosal layer of the esophageal wall; this stage is also referred to as “high-grade dysplasia.”
  • Stage I: In Stage I, cancer has occurred in the superficial layers of the cells that line the esophagus.
  • Stage II: In Stage II, the cancer has invaded deeper layers and has possibly spread to local lymph nodes.
  • Stage III: In this stage, the cancer has penetrated the deepest layer of the esophageal wall, as well as nearby tissues and/or lymph nodes.
  • Stage IV: At this point, the esophageal cancer has spread to other areas of the body.

How do you treat esophageal cancer?

Esophageal cancer may be treated through one or more of the following methods with Jordan Valley Cancer Center’s integrative approach:

The Patient Experience at Jordan Valley Cancer Center

Have more questions about esophageal cancer treatment at Jordan Valley Cancer Center? For more information, about our multi-disciplinary integrative approach to cancer care, contact us at 801-601-2260. As a patient of Jordan Valley Cancer Center, know that you will have access to your own Nurse Navigator who can help you through the process of understanding your condition and receiving care.