Esophageal cancer

Also known as: Cancer, esophageal

The esophagus is the muscular tube that connects the throat to the stomach. It joins the stomach at the diaphragm, which is the breathing muscle separating the chest and lungs from the abdomen.

The connection of the esophagus to the stomach at the diaphragm is called the gastro-esophageal junction, which serves as a one-way valve to keep stomach contents from being refluxed, or regurgitated, back into the esophagus.

The esophagus can be divided into thirds: top (proximal) or neck, middle or chest, and lower or abdominal. Esophageal cancer consists of mucous membrane cancer or adenocarcinomas most commonly, or squamous cell or epidermoid cancers. Adenocarcinomas can arise from pre-cancerous cells caused by heartburn or GERD.

Esophageal cancer is relatively common worldwide but rare in the U.S. Each year in the U.S., there are roughly 17,000 new cases of esophageal cancer and 15,000 deaths from the disease.

Providence Gastrointestinal Cancer Program at Providence Cancer Center has a team of health care professionals and researchers striving to provide and promote expert care for people who have cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. We focus our attention and resources on people with cancers of the upper gastrointestinal tract (esophagus and stomach), middle tract (pancreas, liver, gall bladder, bile ducts and small intestine) and lower tract (colon, rectum and anus).