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Esophageal Cancer

Cancer of the esophagus occurs when normal tissue is triggered to change into a different type of tissue that grows uncontrollably. There are different types of esophageal cancer, and each type has different triggers.

Alcohol and smoking are high risk behaviors that are associated with squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus which still is the most common type of esophageal cancer world-wide. Over the last two decades, however, adenocarcinoma of the esophagus has been on the rise in Western countries and is now the more common esophageal cancer diagnosed in the United States. Esophageal adenocarcinoma is associated with a long history of reflux and Barrett’s.

Patients with esophageal cancer may have difficulty swallowing and weight loss. A barium swallow might show a mass, stricture, or irregularity that should be evaluated further.  In order to be certain that esophageal cancer is not the cause of alarm symptoms or abnormalities seen on imaging, upper endoscopy (EGD) is necessary to look directly at the inside lining of the esophagus. Biopsies can be done to see if there is any abnormal tissue or cancer present.

Good care of GERD will reduce the risk of esophageal cancer.  For more information visit ecan.org