About Esophageal Cancer

What is Esophageal Cancer?
There are two major types of esophageal cancer: squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma of the esophagus. The Virginia Mason Care Team, in Seattle, works with patients to prevent and treat esophageal cancer.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell develops in the squamous cells that line the esophagus. This type of cancer usually occurs in the middle and upper part of the esophagus but can be found in other areas of the esophagus as well.

Adenocarcinoma of the Esophagus
Adenocarcinomas usually arise in glandular tissue in the lower part of the esophagus.

For reasons that are not completely understood, the type of cancer occurring in the esophagus has changed dramatically over the last 30 years. In the 1970s, adenocarcinoma comprised 16 percent of all malignant cancers of the esophagus. As of 1988, it had increased to 50 percent, about equal with the formerly more common squamous cell carcinoma.

Signs and Symptoms of Esophageal Cancer
Signs and symptoms of esophageal cancer can include any of the following:

  • Difficult or painful swallowing (dysphagia);
  • Pain in the back between the shoulder blades;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Swollen glands in the neck or any swelling in the neck that can be felt;
  • Coughing up blood;
  • Hoarseness or chronic cough.

Preventing Esophageal Cancer
The best preventive measures are to avoid all tobacco products and limit the intake of alcoholic beverages. It also is important to maintain a healthy body weight by getting plenty of exercise and eating fresh fruits and vegetables.

Related Links for Esophageal Cancer
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute