The American Cancer Society estimates that each year, more than 17,000 people (13,750 men and 3,900 women) in the U.S. are diagnosed with esophageal cancer. The lifetime risk of esophageal cancer in the U.S. is about one in every 132 men and one in every 455 women.
Overall, the rates of esophageal cancer in the United States have been fairly stable for many years, but over the past decade they have been decreasing slightly. It is most common in whites, but is now almost equally as common in African Americans.
Cancer of the esophagus starts in the inner layer of the esophagus and grows outward. Since 2 types of cells can line the esophagus, there are 2 main types of esophageal cancer: squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma.
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At Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center, our patients can receive an esophagectomy, a surgical procedure to remove the esophagus affected by esophageal cancer. During this procedure, part of the esophagus is removed and another organ, usually the stomach, is used to reconstruct the gastrointestinal tract. Traditionally this required large incisions in the neck, chest and abdomen with significant complications; however, our surgeons have specialized training in robotic assisted surgery which allows this procedure to be done through much smaller incisions, resulting in less blood loss, post-operative pain and far less risk of complications. This results in a faster recovery and quicker return to normal daily activities than conventional open surgery. At the Cancer Center, this procedure is performed at a high volume throughout the year.
The symptoms associated with esophageal cancer may be: trouble swallowing, chest pain, weight loss, hoarseness, chronic cough, vomiting, hiccups, bone pain, bleeding into the esophagus, black stool, anemia, or fatigue. If you experience any of these symptoms, please talk to your doctor.