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What is Esophageal Cancer?

Esophageal cancer affects patients of all ages though middle aged men are at more risk. Esophageal cancer starts in the inside lining of the esophagus and then spreads outward into other layers as it grows. Approximately 16,500 new cases are diagnosed annually in the United States.  It often is associated with acid reflux and changes that can occur in the esophagus as a result of the acid caused inflammation. There are several life style factors that one can make to reduce their risk of esophageal cancer. There are some patients who because of their history should have screening. The decision for screening should be made by you and your physician.

The Florida Hospital Cancer Institute's world-class physicians, nurses, specialists and support staff are specially trained in diagnosis and treating esophageal cancer. Their special brand of care focuses on leading edge treatments, many still in the clinical trial stage, balanced by a compassionate team that offers you support, clear communication and the best outcomes modern medicine can provide.

Types of Esophageal Cancer

There are two types of esophageal cancer and each is named for the type of cells that become malignant, or cancerous.

Squamous cell carcinoma forms in the thin, flat cells that line the esophagus. This cancer is usually found in the upper and middle part of the esophagus. It has a significant correlation to smoking and alcohol use.  

The other form of esophageal cancer is known as adenocarcinoma. It usually begins in a modified lining of the esophagus caused by acid inflammation. . This form of cancer of the esophagus is usually found in the lower part of the esophagus, near the stomach. This type of cancer has been dramatically increasing in frequency.

Our goal is always to prevent cancer when possible and be prepared to prove the most advanced care if cancer occurs.

The Florida Hospital Cancer Center team has a coordinated approach bringing all our resources to bear on accurately diagnosing and treating this serious form of cancer. Our multi-disciplinary team will work with you to explore options, provide you with answers to your pressing questions in clear terms and ensure that you have the very best care available, including state-of-the-art diagnostics, groundbreaking therapies and access to new approaches being tested by labs coast-to-coast and abroad.

This link will take you to more information about the esophagus, reflux, Barrett's -the precursor of adenocarcinoma of the esophagus, and dietary and lifestyle modifications.

Want to learn more about esophageal cancer and treatment options?  Click on the links below or contact our care coordinator.

Esophageal Cancer Information

Esophageal Cancer Symptoms

Cancer of the esophagus begins in the lining of the esophagus and then grows through the wall. Using the bloodstream or the lymphatic system, it can then spread to other parts of the body. In its early stages there may not be any obvious symptoms of esophageal cancer. However, as the cancer grows, the following symptoms may become noticeable. Symptoms of esophageal cancer may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Food gets stuck in the esophagus or has a tendency to want to come back up
  • Feeling pain when swallowing
  • Pain in the chest or the back
  • Unanticipated weight loss
  • Heartburn
  • A cough or a hoarse voice that you've had more than two weeks
  • Vomiting blood or passing old blood with bowel movements
  • Anemia

If you have one or more of these symptoms, you'll want to see your doctor as soon as possible. The earlier the diagnosis and treatment, the greater chance you will have of beating this disease. Contact us now to schedule an appointment with Florida Hospital Cancer Institute.

The professionals at the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute's Esophageal Cancer Clinic will be happy to review your health and lifestyle choices to reduce the risk of contracting cancer of the esophagus later in life. Often, just a few small changes can make a big difference down the road.

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Diagnosing Esophageal Cancer

The most common way of diagnosing esophageal cancer comes in the form its symptoms, which could range from difficulty swallowing and hoarseness to pain in the middle of the chest and unexpected weight loss. Unfortunately, these symptoms usually only show up once the cancer has entered its more advanced stages. Routine checkups are the best way to identify cancer of the esophagus early, when treatments are most effective.

Tests for esophageal cancer include:

  • Esophagogastroduodenoscopy: Also known as gastroscopy or the more general term endoscopy is the passage, once the patient is properly sedated so as not to feel the scope, of a light and camera on the end of a slender tube through the mouth into the esophagus and upper intestine. 
  • Biopsy:  Small  pieces of tissue can be obtained with the gastroscope.   Once sample tissue is removed from the esophagus, it is checked by a pathologist for cancer. This is known as a biopsy. Even if cancer isn't present yet, a biopsy can show changes in the esophagus that may lead to cancer such as Barrett's esophagus. You can learn more about Barrett's by visiting Florida Hospital's Digestive Health website.
     
  • Endoscopic Ultrasound (EUS): Increasingly, FHCI is using endoscopic ultrasound to assess certain esophageal diseases in a cost effective, nonsurgical manner. A highly trained endoscopist guides a thin, flexible tube down the mouth. A transducer on the end emits ultrasound waves that create a highly detailed image of the surrounding tissue. When combined with fine-needle aspiration, EUS is also a highly advanced method of performing evaluation without surgery to remove tissue samples as well for further testing.

Contact us now to schedule an appointment with Florida Hospital Cancer Institute.

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Esophageal Cancer Staging

If these tests show that cancerous cells are indeed present in the esophagus, your doctor will stage the cancer. This staging is based on the location of the cancer and how much it has spread. Staging helps the FHCI medical team determine the ideal course of treatment.

Stage 0 Esophageal Cancer: In Stage 0 of esophageal cancer, abnormal cells are found in the innermost layer of tissue lining the esophagus. The cells are not yet cancerous, but could become cancer in the future and spread into nearby tissue. This stage is often referred to as carcinoma in situ.

Stage I Esophageal Cancer: In this stage cancer has actually formed and has spread beyond the innermost layer of tissue into the next layer of tissue in the wall of the esophagus.

Stage II-A Esophageal Cancer: In Stage II-A, the cancer has spread to the muscle layer of the esophagus or to the outer wall.

Stage II-B Esophageal Cancer: Cancer has spread to any of the first three layers of the esophagus in Stage II-B as well as the nearby lymph nodes.

Stage III Esophageal Cancer: In this stage, cancer has spread into the outer wall of the esophagus. It may have also spread into the tissues or lymph nodes near the esophagus as well.

Stage IV-A Esophageal Cancer: When cancer has spread to nearby or distant lymph nodes, it is referred to as Stage IV-A.

Stage IV-B Esophageal Cancer: This is the most advanced stage and notes that cancer has spread to distant lymph nodes and/or organs in other part of the body.

Obviously, the sooner your esophageal cancer is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can begin. Regular checkups with your doctor can help identify changes in your health that may warrant more in-depth tests for esophageal cancer at the Florida Hospital Cancer Institute.

Contact us now to schedule an appointment with Florida Hospital Cancer Institute.

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