The esophagus is a muscular tube about nine inches long that helps drive food from the mouth to the stomach. There are multiple types of esophageal cancer. The most common is carcinoma (a malignant tumor), either adenocarcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma. Squamous cell carcinoma is associated with smoking and alcohol abuse. Lymphoma
and leiomyosarcoma (cancer of the smooth muscle of the esophagus) are also examples of esophageal cancer. A relatively uncommon disease, esophageal cancer affects less than 5 in 100,000 people.
Symptoms of esophageal cancer include difficulty swallowing solid foods, which progresses to soft foods and liquids, weight loss, heartburn, vomiting blood, regurgitation of food, and chest pain.
Esophageal cancer has a high fatality rate. Fewer than 5 percent survive more than 5 years after diagnosis. Chemotherapy and surgery rarely cure the cancer (there is a 25 percent cure rate when the cancer is confined to the esophagus) but often help relieve symptoms.
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