There are two main types of esophageal cancer. The type is determined by type of cell where the cancer starts. The first type is squamous cell carcinoma, which develops in the cells lining the esophagus, or food pipe. It usually affects the middle and upper part of the esophagus.
The second type is adenocarcinoma, which begins in the lower esophagus. It forms in the gland cells that produce mucus and other fluids.
St. Joseph's Cancer Institute treats a wide range of types of cancer, including esophageal cancer. If you notice esophageal cancer signs and symptoms in Stockton, CA or a surrounding area, Find a Doctor online. Through our state-of-the-art facilities and supportive care teams, our experts are proud to provide exceptional care to patients at any stage of cancer.
Signs & Symptoms of Esophageal Cancer
The most common symptom of esophageal cancer is difficult or painful swallowing. This occurs because the inside of the esophagus narrows as the tumor grows larger. People often describe a feeling of food getting stuck on the way down or choking. It typically starts mildly and worsens with time. Meat, bread, and raw vegetables can be especially problematic. As the disease progresses, it may become difficult to swallow even very soft foods.
Other signs and symptoms of esophageal cancer may include:
- Heartburn or indigestion
- Chronic cough or hoarseness
- Unintended weight loss
- Vomiting or hiccups
- Pain or pressure in the chest or behind the breastbone
Having these symptoms does not always mean you have cancer. They also can be present with noncancerous (benign) conditions. If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor at Dignity Health for a physical exam, accurate diagnosis, and treatment, if necessary. Generally, the earlier you seek treatment, the better the outcome.
Heartburn and chest pain or pressure can also be symptoms of a heart attack. Call 911 if you suspect a heart problem.
Diagnosing Esophageal Cancer at Dignity Health
There is no screening test for esophageal cancer. A diagnosis often comes when people seek treatment for its symptoms.
When you come to Dignity Health for care for your symptoms, diagnosing esophageal cancer may include:
- Medical history and physical exam
- Biopsy to take a tissue sample and examine it for cancer
- Imaging exams, including barium swallow (X-ray with contrast material), chest X-ray, ultrasound, and endoscopy
If these tests find cancer, your doctor may recommend additional testing to understand the full extent (stage) of the cancer. This usually involves more imaging exams, such as CT, MRI, and PET scans. These tests will give your doctor a more complete diagnosis to guide treatment decisions. In some cases, the full extent of your of esophageal cancer cannot be determined until after surgery is performed to remove it.
Count on our caring cancer center staff, including nurse navigators, to support you throughout your diagnosis and treatment.
St. Joseph's Cancer Institute can diagnose your symptoms of esophageal cancer in the Stockton region.