What can you tell me about esophageal cancer?

Esophageal cancer is malignant cancer of the esophagus, which is the long, hollow, muscular tube that connects the throat to the stomach. The primary function of the esophagus is to push food down into the stomach. Esophageal cancer is caused by an overgrowth of cells in the lining of the esophagus. The accumulation of cells in the esophagus then forms a growth or tumor. The tumor is either benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Esophageal cancer can either be squamous or adenocarcinoma, depending on the type of cells present in the esophagus.

A cancer that begins in flat cells in the lining of the esophagus is called squamous cell carcinoma. This type of cancer is usually found in the upper and middle part of the esophagus.

A cancer that begins in cells that make and release mucous and other fluids is called adenocarcinoma. This type of cancer occurs in glandular tissue in the lower part of the esophagus.

Common treatments for esophageal cancer are surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Many patients have trouble swallowing after treatment and need nutritional supplement —some might even need a feeding tube and require additional nutritional support.

For more information contact Courtney Britton, librarian at Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, at (225) 927-2273, cbritton@cancerservices.org, or visit the Education Center at 550 Lobdell Ave., Baton Rouge.ä Internet Resources:

Esophageal Cancer Treatment PDQ — National Cancer Institute. cancer.gov

Esophageal Cancer — American Society of Clinical Oncology. cancer.net

This column is presented as a service by Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, a United Way affiliate.