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Overview of the Disease

By Costas Bizekis, M.D.

Esophageal cancer is a process in which cancer cells form and invade tissues of the esophagus, a muscular tube in the neck and chest where food and liquids pass from the mouth to the stomach. The cancer most commonly begins within the lining of the esophagus and grows outward.

Esophageal cancer is increasing in frequency faster than any other type of cancer in the country, between 12,000 and 18,000 new cases a year.

The two most common types of esophageal cancer are named after the types of cells in which they form:

  • Adenocarcinoma: cancer that arises in the lining at the end of the esophagus, where it connects with the stomach. Adenocarcinoma consists of columnar cells that secrete (produce) fluid.

  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma: cancer that is usually located in the upper and middle portions of the esophagus, but can be found anywhere on the esophagus. The majority of the esophagus's lining consists of squamous cells.

NYU Thoracic Oncology Program physicians treat both adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.