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Esophageal Cancer

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What is esophageal cancer?

Esophageal cancer begins in the esophagus—a 10-inch-long muscular tube located in the chest that helps move food through the digestive tract to the stomach. There are two main types of esophageal cancer: squamous cell (typically found in the upper part of the esophagus) and adenocarcinoma (usually found in the lower portion of the esophagus, near the stomach).

Who develops esophageal cancer?

There are many risk factors for developing esophageal cancer. Some are listed below.

  • acid reflux
  • Barrett’s esophagus (cells in the esophagus become damaged and abnormal due to acid reflux)
  • being male (men are three times more likely than women to develop esophageal cancer)
  • excessive alcohol consumption (three or more drinks daily)
  • obesity
  • smoking

What are the symptoms of esophageal cancer?

Esophageal cancer may not always cause symptoms, particularly if it’s in the early stages. However, as it progresses, symptoms may include painful swallowing and other swallowing difficulties, pain in the chest or back, weight loss, heartburn and persistent hoarseness (or a cough). If you are experiencing any of these symptoms it is important that you see your physician to be evaluated.

How is esophageal cancer diagnosed?

In addition to a physical exam, thorough medical history and possibly blood tests, you may undergo imaging tests such as an upper GI series (X-rays are taken after drinking barium, which allows for clearer viewing of the esophagus) and endoscopy (a lighted camera device called an endoscope is placed down through the esophagus to look for abnormalities). A biopsy, which gathers tissue samples to be studied for cancer, may also, be performed.

How is esophageal cancer treated?

Esophageal cancer is best treated in a multi-disciplinary approach.  At the Blumenthal Cancer Center, a team of physicians are ready to help you through the process from diagnosis to treatment. Less invasive procedures include endoscopic mucosal resection (an endoscope is used to remove cancerous tissue or lesions) and minimally invasive esophagectomy (a procedure that removes part or the entire esophagus, which is then rebuilt from part of the stomach or large intestine) are also available.

Valley is proud to offer you a multidisciplinary approach in the treatment of your esophageal cancer. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please contact 201-634-5722.

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