Esophageal Cancer (cont.)
Types of Esophageal Cancer
There are two main types of esophageal cancer. Both types are diagnosed,
treated, and managed in similar ways.
The two most common types are named for how the cancer cells look under a
microscope. Both types begin in cells in the inner lining of the esophagus:
- Adenocarcinoma of the esophagus: This type is usually found in the lower part
of the esophagus, near the stomach. In the United States, adenocarcinoma is the
most common type of esophageal cancer. It's been increasing since the 1970s.
- Squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus: This type is usually found in the
upper part of the esophagus. This type is becoming less common among Americans.
Around the world, however, squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type.
When you get a diagnosis of cancer, it's natural to wonder what may have
caused the disease. Doctors can seldom explain why one person develops
esophageal cancer and another doesn't. However, we do know that people with
certain risk factors are more likely than others to develop esophageal cancer. A
risk factor is something that may increase the chance of getting a disease.
Studies have found the following risk factors for esophageal cancer:
- Age 65 or older: Age is the main risk factor for esophageal cancer. The
chance of getting this disease goes up as you get older. In the United States,
most people are 65 years of age or older when they are diagnosed with esophageal
- Being male: In the United States, men are more than three times as likely as
women to develop esophageal cancer.
- Smoking: People who smoke are more likely than people who don't smoke to
develop esophageal cancer.
- Heavy drinking: People who have more than 3 alcoholic drinks each day are
more likely than people who don't drink to develop squamous cell carcinoma of
the esophagus. Heavy drinkers who smoke are at a much higher risk than heavy
drinkers who don't smoke. In other words, these two factors act together to
increase the risk even more.
- Diet: Studies suggest that having a diet that's low in fruits and vegetables
may increase the risk of esophageal cancer. However, results from diet studies
don't always agree, and more research is needed to better understand how diet
affects the risk of developing esophageal cancer.
- Obesity: Being obese increases the risk of adenocarcinoma of the esophagus.
- Acid reflux: Acid reflux is the abnormal backward flow of stomach acid into
the esophagus. Reflux is very common. A symptom of reflux is heartburn, but some
people don't have symptoms. The stomach acid can damage the tissue of the
esophagus. After many years of reflux, this tissue damage may lead to
adenocarcinoma of the esophagus in some people.
- Barrett esophagus: Acid reflux may damage the esophagus and over time cause a
condition known as Barrett esophagus. The cells in the lower part of the
esophagus are abnormal. Most people who have Barrett esophagus don't know it.
The presence of Barrett esophagus increases the risk of adenocarcinoma of the
esophagus. It's a greater risk factor than acid reflux alone. Many other
possible risk factors (such as smokeless tobacco) have been studied. Researchers
continue to study these possible risk factors.
Having a risk factor doesn't mean that a person will develop cancer of the
esophagus. Most people who have risk factors never develop esophageal cancer.
Viewers share their comments
Esophageal Cancer - Types
Question: Do you or someone you know have adenocarcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus? Please share your story.
Esophageal Cancer - Risk Factors
Question: Do you have any of the risk factors for esophageal cancer? What are they, and what are your concerns?
Esophageal Cancer - Diagnosis
Question: What kinds of tests and exams led to a diagnosis of esophageal cancer?
Esophageal Cancer - Treatment
Question: What kinds of treatment, including radiation or chemotherapy, did you receive for esophageal cancer?
Esophageal Cancer - Surgery
Question: Please describe the surgical experience you or someone you know had for esophageal cancer.
Esophageal Cancer - Second Opinion
Question: How did you go about getting a second opinion for your esophageal cancer?
Esophageal Cancer - Follow-Up Care
Question: What type of follow-up care did you receive for your esophageal cancer?
Esophageal Cancer - Symptoms and Signs
Question: What were the symptoms and signs you experienced with esophageal cancer?
Esophageal Cancer - Prognosis
Question: What is your esophageal cancer prognosis?