Esophageal Cancer

Know More About Esophageal Cancer

As the term suggests, the esophageal cancer develops in the oesophagus which is a long hallow tube through which the food travels down the stomach. It extends from the throat to the stomach. Generally, the tumour cells begin in the lining called mucosa that is present inside the oesophagus. It has been observed that the frequency of esophageal cancer occuring in men is higher than the women.

Causes of esophageal cancer

The causes and risk factors for developing esophageal cancer are numerous.
The primary reason remains to be the genetic mutations that occur in the DNA and cause the cell to divide uncontrollably and quickly. This accumulation of cells turning abnormal causes the formation of lumps in the esophagus. This mass of tumour cells holds the potential to spread to other parts of the body as well.

If the esophagus is subject to chronic irritation, it leads to changes in the esophagus and increases the chances of developing cancer.

Issues like smoking, alcohol consumption, dealing with obesity, and insufficient diet also contribute to risk factors for esophagus cancer.

The precancerous stage in the cells of esophagus called Barrett’s esophagus and difficulty in swallowing due to absence of relaxation in esophagus sphincter called achalasia can lead to development of cancerous situations.
Bile reflux, gastroesophageal reflux disease, radiation treatments of upper abdomen or chest, and bearing steady habit of drinking very hot liquids increases the chances of esophageal cancer.

Types of esophageal cancer

Depending on the type of cells affected by the tumour, the esophageal cancer has been divided into two types.


The esophagus consists of some mucus-secreting glands that are located in its lower portion. The cells present in glands turn cancerous that leads to the difficult situation. This is one of the common types of cancer.


Squamous Cell Carcinoma

The squamous cells form the surface of the esophagus and are thin and flat in nature. These types of cancer cells are found in the upper and middle portions of the esophagus.
The other types of cancer that might be observed include sarcoma, small cell carcinoma, melanoma, choriocarcinoma, and lymphoma.

Signs and Symptoms

The common signs and symptoms experienced by the people dealing with esophageal cancer are:

  • Struggling during the process of swallowing
  • Chest pain (behind the breastbone), burning, or pressure
  • Indigestion
  • Heartburn
  • Hoarseness and coughing
  • Unintended weight loss


The techniques applied for diagnosis of esophageal cancer are described below:


Generally, the doctor uses a flexible tube to pass it down your throat which is equipped with camera at its tip. This camera produces the images of the organs. The video endoscope provides with live video on the monitor using which the doctor focuses on affected areas and looks for the signs of cancer.

Barium Swallow Study

During this procedure, a liquid containing barium is swallowed which coats the esophagus and helps in the production of X-rays.


The doctor may use a special tube to pass down the throat to the esophagus and collect the sample of tissue for analysis. The doctor checks it under the microscope for the detection of cancer cells in the area. Based on the analysis, the stage of the cancer is also determined.
To check if the tumor has spread to other parts of the body, the doctor may perform tests like PET (positron emission tomography), bronchoscopy, endoscopic ultrasound, and computerized tomography (CT).

Side effects of such procedures

Chemotherapy can lead to low levels of red blood cells, constipation, fatigue, appetite changes, vomiting, infections, and easy bruising or bleeding.

Targeted drug therapy may lead to

  • Rash or dry skin
  • Nail changes
  • Loss of hair colour
  • High blood pressure
  • Mouth sores
  • Issues with wound healing and blood clotting

Radiotherapy can cause

  • Blurred vision
  • Issues while concentration
  • Changes in skin
  • Headache
  • Hair loss

Esophagectomy may lead to issues like

  • Voice changes
  • Acid or bile reflux
  • Vomiting, nausea
  • Diarrhea 
  • Pneumonia
  • Infection
  • Bleeding 
  • Cough


The treatments for esophageal cancer depend on the intensity of the disease and the levels of complication.


The surgery can be performed in many ways to treat the condition.

  • Esophagectomy
    During this process, the doctor removes small portion of the esophagus that has been affected by the tumour cells. Along with it are removed few of the surrounding lymph nodes and upper part of the stomach. The part of esophagus remaining is then attached to the stomach.
  • Removal of small tumors
    If the cancer cells are located in the superficial layers of the oesophagus, it is removed by the surgeon along with some of the healthy tissues as well.
  • Esophagogastrectomy
    The surgeon in this case removes a part of the esophagus, nearby lymph nodes, and greater portion of the stomach. The part of stomach left is then pulled and attached with the esophagus.


Radiation therapy can be performed in various ways. The doctors may perform stereotactic radiosurgery where radiation of a single high dose targets the tumor without any incision. External beam radiation produces radiation in minor amounts over time. Internal radiation (brachytherapy) can also be performed to kill the cancer cells.
Intensity-modulated radiation therapy involves using computers for targeting the tumors from different angles and killing them. Proton beam therapy involves using protons for targeting cancer cells.


Chemotherapy makes use of the specified chemicals to attack the cancer cells. When chemicals are given through muscle or gain, they enter the bloodstream and move throughout the body. This is called systemic chemotherapy. In the advanced cases, the process can be performed to provide relief in the symptoms.


Immunotherapy is used to strengthen the immune cells that help fight the infections. The therapy lets the body identify the abnormal cells and destroy them. In the case of passive immunotherapy, the man made antibodies are used to target the tumour cells.

Targeted Drug Therapy

The targeted drug therapy focuses on the certain abnormalities that are present in the cancer cells. These abnormalities are blocked by the treatment and can cause tumour cells to die.

Why ayurveda?

The field of Ayurveda has progressed a lot in the recent years and has been a boon to the world for long. Ayurveda offers a wide range of preventive measures and cures for various diseases. There is a diversity of herbal formulations, inclusion of Yoga and panchakarma. The Ayurvedic treatments contribute to detoxification and cleansing in the human body. It focuses on the intake of ‘sattvic bhojan’ that ensures healthy eating and aids in rejuvenating the body.

The field of Ayurveda ensures a balance between the doshas and the promotion of optimum health. It works on the principle of permanent cure and prevents the future recurrence of the disease. Further, the Ayurvedic approach to dealing with conditions offers no side effects. The traditional medicines work slowly on the human body and aim to improve the overall body functioning. It helps an individual to understand and handle the body’s physical, emotional, and mental qualities. It is highly healing and brings back the body’s equilibrium.