Esophageal Cancer

Answers to Esophageal Cancer

About Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer is located in the esophagus.  There are five stages of esophageal cancer.  The are many symptoms and possible causes.  There are also many risks.  There are many treatment options for this cancer.  


Some symptoms of esophageal cancer are trouble swallowing, or the feeling of having food stuck in your throat or chest.  This is the most common symptom of esophageal cancer.  Another symptom is chest pain.  Some people complain of pain or discomfort in the middle of the chest.  Other people describe the feeling of pressure or burning in the chest.  The last symptom of esophageal cancer is weight loss.  Half of the patients with esophageal cancer lost weight without trying to.  This is because their swallowing problems keep them from eating enough food

Possible Causes


The older you get the higher risk you are to get esophageal cancer.


Men are three times more likely to get esophageal cancer than women.

Tobacco and Alcohol

Using tobacco products (cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco) raises the risk of getting esophageal cancer.  The more and longer a person uses tobacco products the higher the risk of cancer can be.

Drinking alcohol also increases the risk to getting cancer.  The chance of getting esophageal cancer rises with the more alcohol consumed.

Drinking alcohol and using tobacco products together can raise the risk of getting cancer more than using either alone.

Cancer Growth

Cancer cells go through the cell cycle faster than any other cells.  They also can't die.  A cancerous cell is sticky,  when a bunch of cancerous cells stick together they form a tumor.  One way that cancer can grow, is if one of the cancerous cells break off of the tumor and travel to other parts of the body by the blood stream.  Since the cancerous cells are sticky, they can stick to blood cells.  This is how you get cancer in different places of the body.

Cancer Stages

There are four stages of esophageal cancer.  According to the American Cancer Society, the type of treatment is based on the stage of cancer diagnosed, how far the cancer has spread and a person's overall health.

Stage 0 (zero) is not considered a true cancer but the presents of abnormal cells are found within the inner layer of the cells that line the esophagus.  Stage 0 is considered precancer.

Stage 1 esophageal cancer is the presents of cancer cells that have grown into deeper layers of the esophagus.  In this stage of esophageal cancer, the cancer cells have not spread to the lymph nodes or any other organ in the body.

Stage 2 esophageal cancer is the presents of cancer cells that have grown deeper into the main muscle layer of the esophagus or into the connective tissue that is on the outside of the esophagus.  In the stage, there may be the presents of cancer cells within one or two lymph nodes.

Stage 3 esophageal cancer is the presents of cancer cells that have grown completely through the wall of the esophagus to the outer layer.  In this stage of cancer, the presents of cancer cells may also be in nearby organs, tissues, and lymph nodes.

Stage 4 esophageal cancer is the presents of cancer cells that have invaded distant organs and lymph nodes.  This is called metastasis.


Since stage 0 cancer is a precancer, patients can have a yearly endoscopy to monitor the cells growth.  Another option would be to have the abnormal part of the esophagus removed with an esophagectomy.  This is a major operation, but one advantage is that you don't have to have yearly endoscopy.

If stage 1 cancer cells are in a small area of the mucosa then the cancer can be treated with EMR, along with having an endoscopic procedure to destroy the remaining cancerous cells.  Another treatment would be to have an esophagectomy to remove part of the esophagus that contains the cancer cells.  This procedure can only happen if the patient is healthy enough.  Chemoradiation therapy is another recommended type of treatment for this stage of cancer.

For stages 2 and 3 treatment options are chemoradiation therapy followed by surgery.  This can only happen if the patient is healthy enough.  Patients who can not have the surgery because of serious health issues can be treated with just chemoradiation.

For stage 4 the cancer is hard to get rid of completely, so surgery to try to get rid of the cancer is not a good option.  Treatment for this stage is mainly used to keep the cancer under control and to relieve any symptoms it is causing.  Chemo may be given to help the patient be more comfortable and live longer.  At this stage there is no treatment options other than for patient comfort.

Survival Rate

If you have the  first stage of Esophageal Cancer you have a survival rate of 39%.  Stage two you have a survival rate of 21%.  If you are in stage three then you have a 4% of survival.  Once stage for of esophageal cancer is diagnosed the survival rate is minimal.   Another way of survival is if you go into remission.  This means that the cancer has either stop growing, shrunk or it has disappeared.  If you are in stage four then there is no cure.  

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