Esophageal Cancer

What is esophageal cancer?

Esophageal cancer forms in the esophagus, or tube that transports food from the mouth to the stomach when swallowed. The wall of the esophagus has several layers. Esophageal cancer can start in any of these layers. Most starts in the inner layer and grows outward.

The two main types of primary esophageal cancer are:

  • Adenocarcinoma – starts in gland cells that make mucus. Most adenocarcinomas start in the lower esophagus.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma – forms in cells that line the inside of the esophagus called squamous cells.

More information about esophageal cancer (American Cancer Society)

What esophageal cancer is not

Esophageal cancer should not be confused with other thoracic or gastrointestinal cancers and lung conditions such as lung cancer or mesothelioma because these cancers can have different symptoms, outlooks, and treatments.


It’s possible that you could have one or more of the following tests (but not all of these will apply to your condition):

  • Imaging: computerized tomography (CT) scan, positron emission tomography (PET) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Endoscopy
  • Biopsy
  • Blood tests


Depending on your unique set of conditions and how far the disease has spread, your treatment could include one or more of the following treatments (but not all of these will apply to your condition):

  • Surgery
  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Clinical trial
  • Follow-up care including imaging, blood tests and physical exams

Your full team of care providers will work closely together to review your diagnostic tests, identify the best course of treatment particular to you, and help you understand your diagnosis and what to expect with any treatment you have.