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Esophageal Cancer

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Esophageal cancer occurs in the esophagus – the hollow tube that runs from the throat all the way down to the stomach. The esophagus functions as a path for food to travel into the stomach to be digested. Esophageal cancer commonly shows up in cells that line the esophagus. The cancer can afflict any portion of the esophagus, but is most commonly seen in the lower esophagus. While anyone can get esophageal cancer, the disease afflicts more men than women. To learn more about esophageal cancer, please contact Central Florida Hepatology & Gastroenterology at 407.303.1812 or request an appointment on our website.

Symptoms of Esophageal Cancer

There are two types of esophageal cancer. The first type, squamous cell carcinoma, develops from squamous cells lining the entire esophagus. The second type, adenocarcinoma, occurs in the lower esophagus, and is believed to be caused by continual exposure to acid in the lower esophagus.

Many people do not experience symptoms of esophageal cancer in its early stages, making it difficult to diagnose. As the cancer progresses, symptoms include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Weight loss
  • Indigestion
  • Heartburn
  • Pain located behind the breastbone
  • Coughing

Causes of Esophageal Cancer

There are several risk factors that increase a person’s chances of developing esophageal cancer. These risk factors include:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) – occurs when acid from the stomach harm the esophagus. Health care experts estimate approximately 1/3 of esophageal cancer cases are related to GERD.
  • Smoking and tobacco use
  • Heavy, prolonged alcohol consumption
  • Barrett’s esophagus – a condition that causes changes in the lower esophagus due to GERD.
  • Hereditary – certain people groups including men, African Americans and elderly individuals are at a higher risk for developing esophageal cancer.

Treatment for Esophageal Cancer

There are several options once the cancer has been diagnosed. As with other cancers, treatment is often more successful the earlier cancer is detected. Treatment options vary depending on the health of the patient and stage of the cancer.

  • Surgery – during surgery, all or part of the esophagus may be removed
  • Radiation treatment – radiation is used to kill the cancerous cells in the esophagus
  • Photodynamic therapy – this treatment uses laser light to attack cancerous cells
  • Chemotherapy – chemotherapy utilizes drugs that target cancer cells. It is often used in combination with other forms of treatment

To learn more about esophageal cancer, please contact Central Florida Hepatology & Gastroenterology at 407.303.1812 or request an appointment on our website.