The oesophagus is a hollow muscular tube that’s responsible for moving food from the throat to the stomach. It can occur when a malignant tumor forms in the lining of the esophagus.
As the tumor grows, it can affect the deep tissues and muscle of the esophagus. A tumor can appear anywhere along the length of the esophagus, including where the esophagus and the stomach meet.
There are two common types
- Squamous cell carcinoma occurs when cancer starts in the flat, thin cells that make up the lining of the esophagus. This form most often appears in the top or middle of the esophagus, but it can appear anywhere.
- Adenocarcinoma occurs when cancer starts in the glandular cells of the esophagus that are responsible for the production of fluids such as mucus. Adenocarcinomas are most common in the lower portion of the esophagus.
During the early stages of esophageal cancer, you probably won’t experience any symptoms. As your cancer progresses, you may experience:
- unintentional weight loss
- pain or difficulty when swallowing
- frequent choking while eating
- food coming back up the esophagus
- chest pain
- chronic cough
As with most cancers, the cause of esophageal cancer isn’t yet known. It’s believed to be related to abnormalities (mutations) in the DNA of the cells related to the esophagus. These mutations signal the cells to multiply more rapidly than normal cells.
These mutations also disrupt the signal for these cells to die when they should. This causes them to accumulate and become tumors.