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Esophageal Cancer

Cancer that forms in tissues lining the esophagus (the muscular tube through which food passes from the throat to the stomach). Two types of esophageal cancer are squamous cell carcinoma (cancer that begins in flat cells lining the esophagus) and adenocarcinoma (cancer that begins in cells that make and release mucus and other fluids).

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

About Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the esophagus.

The esophagus is the hollow, muscular tube that moves food and liquid from the throat to the stomach. The wall of the esophagus is made up of several layers of tissue, including mucous membrane, muscle, and connective tissue. Esophageal cancer starts at the inside lining of the esophagus and spreads outward through the other layers as it grows.

The two most common forms of esophageal cancer are named for the type of cells that become malignant (cancerous):

Read more about Esophageal Cancer

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Surgery versus endoscopic therapies for early oesophageal cancer in Barrett's oesophagus

This Cochrane review has indicated that there are no randomised controlled trials to compare management options in this vital area, therefore trials should be undertaken as a matter of urgency. Current use of endotherapies in the care of patients with early cancer or high‐grade dysplasia of Barrett's oesophagus should be at the recommendation of the multi‐disciplinary team involved in individual care. Properly conducted randomised controlled trials comparing surgery with endotherapies should be conducted before any conclusions can be drawn.

Screening for oesophageal cancer

Oesophageal cancer is a common cause of cancer related death in the world. The prognosis in the advanced stages is unfavourable, but the early oesophageal cancers are asymptomatic and curable, and usually go undetected until they have spread beyond the oesophageal wall. Endoscopy with iodine staining or cytologic examination are two common screening tests for early oesophageal cancer. These screening tests were started in the 1970s, but the true benefit is inconsistent and is uncertain due to lead‐time bias, which is the amount of time by which the diagnosis is advanced by the screening procedure; and length‐time bias, where screening is more likely to detect slow‐growing disease rather than altering the person's duration of life. This review intended to determine the efficacy of the two screening tests for oesophageal cancer. We identified 3482 studies but none were RCTs of screening. Several non‐comparative studies showed that the screening tests may increase the incidence of reported oesophageal cancer and improve the survival results after a screening test, but these results could indicate bias rather than a true causative effect. Therefore, there is a strong need for randomised controlled trials (RCTs), especially long‐term RCTs, to determine the efficacy, cost‐effectiveness, and any adverse effects of screening for oesophageal cancer.

Chinese medicinal herbs for oesophageal cancer

Chinese herbal medicine is widely used as adjunct therapy to chemo‐ or radiotherapy in patients being treated for cancer of the oesophagus. As yet there is no evidence that Chinese herbal medicine is effective or not in this role.

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Summaries for consumers

Surgery versus endoscopic therapies for early oesophageal cancer in Barrett's oesophagus

This Cochrane review has indicated that there are no randomised controlled trials to compare management options in this vital area, therefore trials should be undertaken as a matter of urgency. Current use of endotherapies in the care of patients with early cancer or high‐grade dysplasia of Barrett's oesophagus should be at the recommendation of the multi‐disciplinary team involved in individual care. Properly conducted randomised controlled trials comparing surgery with endotherapies should be conducted before any conclusions can be drawn.

Screening for oesophageal cancer

Oesophageal cancer is a common cause of cancer related death in the world. The prognosis in the advanced stages is unfavourable, but the early oesophageal cancers are asymptomatic and curable, and usually go undetected until they have spread beyond the oesophageal wall. Endoscopy with iodine staining or cytologic examination are two common screening tests for early oesophageal cancer. These screening tests were started in the 1970s, but the true benefit is inconsistent and is uncertain due to lead‐time bias, which is the amount of time by which the diagnosis is advanced by the screening procedure; and length‐time bias, where screening is more likely to detect slow‐growing disease rather than altering the person's duration of life. This review intended to determine the efficacy of the two screening tests for oesophageal cancer. We identified 3482 studies but none were RCTs of screening. Several non‐comparative studies showed that the screening tests may increase the incidence of reported oesophageal cancer and improve the survival results after a screening test, but these results could indicate bias rather than a true causative effect. Therefore, there is a strong need for randomised controlled trials (RCTs), especially long‐term RCTs, to determine the efficacy, cost‐effectiveness, and any adverse effects of screening for oesophageal cancer.

Chinese medicinal herbs for oesophageal cancer

Chinese herbal medicine is widely used as adjunct therapy to chemo‐ or radiotherapy in patients being treated for cancer of the oesophagus. As yet there is no evidence that Chinese herbal medicine is effective or not in this role.

See all (32)

More about Esophageal Cancer

Photo of an adult man

Also called: Oesophageal cancer, Esophageal neoplasm, Cancer of the esophagus, Esophageal carcinoma

Other terms to know:
Esophagus

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