PET/CT & Esophageal Cancer

Esophageal cancer is cancer that starts in the esophagus. The esophagus is a tube that makes up part of the digestive tract and carries food and liquid from the throat to the stomach.

The esophagus is about 10 inches long and connects the throat with the stomach. It is located behind the windpipe and in front of the spine. When a person swallows, the esophagus tightens regularly to push food down into the stomach.

Cancer can develop in any area of a person’s esophagus. If the cancer spreads outside the esophagus, it usually shows up in the following areas:

  • Lymph nodes
  • The windpipe
  • Large blood vessels in the chest
  • Lungs
  • Liver
  • Stomach
  • Kidney
  • Adrenals.

There are two main types of esophageal cancer:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma.

Half of all Esophageal cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. Squamous cells line the esophagus and this type of esophageal cancer can happen anywhere along the length of the esophagus.

  • Adenocarcinoma

Adenocarcinoma can happen when squamous cells are replaced by glandular tissue.

Certain factors can lead to a person being more likely to get esophageal cancer than someone else. These risk factors include the following activities or conditions:

  • Smoking and drinking

People who smoke and drink have the highest risk of developing esophageal cancer.

  • Age

Men and women between the ages of 55 and 70 are at the greatest risk of getting esophageal cancer.

  • Gender

Men are more likely to get esophageal cancer than women

  • Race

People of African-American decent are more likely to develop esophageal cancer than white people.

  • Barrett’s esophagus

The risk of esophageal cancer is increased when the esophagus is irritated over a long period of time, such as in Barrett’s esophagus (reflux disease).

  • Diet

A person who has a poor diet may also have an increased risk of getting esophageal cancer. Eating hot foods or drinking hot liquids, such as coffee or tea, can be a risk factor

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