Overview 

Esophageal cancer arises in a hollow, long muscular tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach for digestion.
The cells that are lining inside the esophagus are where esophageal cancer tends to develop. The disease can arise in any part of esophagus. It often happens to more men than women. 

The disease has been found to be the top sixth cause of deaths from cancer across the globe. In some parts of the world, esophageal cancer could be associated with the use of tobacco and alcohol or certain dietary habits and obesity. 

Symptoms

  • Dysphagia or difficulty swallowing
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Pain, pressure or burning in the chest
  • Heartburn
  • Coughs or hoarseness

When esophageal cancer is in the early stage, there may be no signs or symptoms appear.
If Barrett’s esophagus, a precancerous condition has been detected in a patient that have chronic acid reflux, he or she is more likely to develop esophageal cancer and therefore are recommended to undergo screening for esophageal cancer.

Causes 

The cause of esophageal cancer is unclear. However, it is known that the disease develops when cells in the esophagus mutate in their DNA causing cells to grow and multiply. When the cells divide they build up and from into a tumor in the esophagus. This tumor then begins to invade and destroy the normal cells. These cells have the tendency to metastasize (spread to other parts of the body).

Types of esophageal cancer 

The types of cells that are involved in esophageal cancer can be determine the types of esophageal cancer a patient has.

  • Adenocarcinoma: This type of esophageal cancer initiates in the cells of glands that secrete mucus in the esophagus. It commonly happens in the lower part of the organ. 
  • Squamous cell carcinoma:These cells have a flat and thin structure. They appear on the surface of the esophagus. This type develops mostly in the top and middle sections of the organ.
  • Other types: Small cell carcinoma, sarcoma, lymphoma, melanoma and choriocarcinoma are some of the uncommon types of esophageal cancer.

Risk factors 

If the esophagus has chronic irritations, the cells mutate and causes esophageal cancer.
The following are the factors that contribute to esophagus irritation:

  • Having gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD
  • Having Barrett’s esophagus
  • Having bile reflux
  • Having achalasia
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • The use of alcohol
  • Having regular habit of drinking hot fluids
  • Insufficient consumption of fruits and vegetables
  • Receiving radiation treatment to the chest or upper abdomen