The incidence of esophageal cancer is rising in the United States. Most esophageal cancer in this country is called esophageal adenocarcinoma, and is known to develop in some patients with long standing Barrett’s esophagus and gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD).
The other main type of esophageal cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. While this type of cancer is not associated with GERD, it is often seen in patients who are heavy smokers or drinkers.
Both types of esophageal cancer are treatable and outcomes are better if the cancer is found before it has spread outside of the esophagus. The treatment for esophageal cancer can be long and intense, and is best done under the care of an experienced multidisciplinary team.
The Medical Center of Aurora (TMCA) is home to an experienced and well trained esophageal cancer care team that will help educate and guide you or a loved one through the workup, diagnosis, staging and treatment of an esophageal cancer.
The team is led by Dr. Jenifer Marks, a general thoracic surgeon who trained at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, one of the top cancer centers in the country. Dr. Marks has specific expertise in both benign and malignant esophageal diseases and provides her patients with the best care possible for each condition.
Esophageal Cancer Types
As mentioned above, the two most common types of esophageal cancer are:
- Adenocarcinoma: Often found in the cells where the lower esophagus meets the stomach.
- Squamous cell carcinoma: Named for the cells in the upper and middle parts of the esophagus where this type of cancer most often forms.
Causes and Symptoms of Esophageal Cancer
Like many cancers, esophageal cancer has some known risk factors, including:
- Barrett’s esophagus
- Excess use of alcohol
- Heavy smoking or use of chewing tobacco
- History of gastroesophageal reflux disease
The symptoms of esophageal cancer can include:
- Difficulty and/or pain with swallowing
- Food getting stuck
- Pain in the throat, chest or back
- Severe coughing
- Unexplained weight loss