Esophageal Cancer - Types and Stages

What is Esophageal Cancer?

The esophagus, or foodpipe, is an important organ of the human digestive system. It is a 25 cm long, hollow, and muscular tube connecting the mouth and stomach.

When the cells present in the esophagus undergo undesirable DNA mutations and start dividing abnormally, a tumor is formed. This is referred to as esophageal cancer. Esophageal cancer, which is sometimes referred to as esophageal carcinoma cancer, may not show any symptoms in the early stages and is often diagnosed in the advanced stages. Esophageal carcinoma risk is found to be high among individuals who are aged 45 and above. However, it can be seen in all age groups.

Esophageal carcinoma is one of the most common cancers in India. It is also found to be a leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the country.

The 5-year survival rates for esophageal carcinoma are relatively promising if the cancer is caught in the early stages.

How does Esophageal Cancer Affect the Body?

Esophageal cancer has a slow growth rate, and patients may not experience any symptoms in the early stages. An esophageal cancer tumor primarily arises in the inner lining of the esophagus. Gradually, it starts spreading outward to different layers of the esophagus, to the lymph nodes and nearby organs, and eventually, to the distant organs in the body.

Patients with esophageal carcinoma often have swallowing difficulties, vomiting, chest pain, coughing blood, chest burn, indigestion, and weight loss.

It is important to note that once the disease starts presenting symptoms, it progresses rather quickly. Therefore, it is important to not ignore any symptoms, and immediately see a doctor when these symptoms are observed.

Types of Esophageal Cancer

Based on the type of cell from which they arise, the following are the common esophageal cancer types:

Stages of Esophageal Cancer

Once the diagnosis of esophageal carcinoma is confirmed, the specialists perform esophageal cancer staging. This involves evaluating the extent of the disease’s spread and categorizing it under the respective stage. Stages 1 and 2 refer to the early-stage esophageal cancers, and stages 3 and 4 refer to the advanced-stage cancers.

Esophageal carcinoma staging is an important step of esophageal carcinoma management as it helps specialists devise personalized treatment plans that are going to positively impact the disease’s prognosis. Also, the staging parameters are different for different types of esophageal tumors. The following are the different oesophageal cancer stages:


Esophageal cancer is one of the most common cancers in India. Despite being one of the slow-growing cancers, it progresses rather quickly once the symptoms become apparent. Different esophageal cancer types affect different parts of the esophagus. Opting for regular health checkups and not ignoring symptoms like swallowing difficulties, heartburn, chest pain, vomiting, indigestion, etc., can aid in the early detection and timely treatment of esophageal carcinoma.

Frequently Asked Questions

Most esophageal cancer types grow slowly, and in many cases, patients will not know until the symptoms become apparent. There have been reports of cases where esophageal carcinoma patients were asymptomatic for over ten years.

That said, this cancer type progresses rapidly once the symptoms start appearing. Therefore, it is necessary to opt for regular health checkups and be mindful of the symptoms associated with this cancer.

After esophageal cancer diagnosis, it is important to receive appropriate treatment on time. Once the treatment is completed, the patient must adhere to the follow-up guidelines given by the expert team in order to lead a normal and cancer-free life.

The exact location where the esophageal cancer tumor arises depends on the cell type from which it arises. Squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus forms in the flat cells and arises in the upper and middle portions of the esophagus. Adenocarcinoma, on the other hand, forms in the lower portion of the esophagus.

Yes, it is possible to treat esophageal carcinoma as we have multiple treatment approaches available today. The treatment outcomes, however, depend on multiple factors like the stage at which the diagnosis is made, the patient’s age during diagnosis, and the patient’s overall health status.

The health outcomes are more favorable if the disease is diagnosed in its early stages.

Barrett’s esophagus is a condition wherein the cells of the lower esophagus are frequently exposed to stomach acid, because of which the lining of the esophagus becomes similar to that of the stomach and intestine. This condition primarily occurs in the lower portion of the esophagus, and it is more common in individuals with GERD and obesity.

Many reports have suggested that those with Barrett’s esophagus have a higher risk of developing an esophageal cancer tumor.

Esophageal adenocarcinoma staging is done with the help of imaging tests. Commonly recommended tests for adenocarcinoma staging include endoscopy, CT scans, and PET scans. These tests help specialists determine the extent of the growth of the primary tumor, lymph node involvement, and distant metastases.

Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, or squamous esophageal cancer, is the most common type of esophageal carcinoma in India. Esophageal squamous carcinoma is commonly found in the upper and lower portions of the esophagus.