Understanding the Disease

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Esophageal cancer is the sixth leading cause of cancer death in the world, although it remains relatively uncommon in North America. The National Cancer Institute estimates that over 15,000 new esophageal cancers will be diagnosed in the United States in the year 2007. This represents one percent of all cancers and nearly 10 percent of gastrointestinal cancers. Despite its relative rarity, the death rate remains high with an estimated 13,300 deaths attributed to esophageal cancer annually.

In the past two decades, dramatic change has occurred in the types of esophageal cancer that are most prevalent. Adenocarcinoma has replaced squamous cell carcinoma as the most common esophageal cancer in most western countries.  The incidence of adenocarcinoma has risen faster than any other form of cancer.  While squamous cell carcinoma remains the most common type of esophageal cancer in the world, the incidence of adenocarcinoma in North America has increased nearly 600 percent.

Historically, less than 15-20 percent of patients diagnosed with esophageal cancer were likely to survive five years.  However, with recognition of the risk factors causing esophageal cancer, earlier discovery and better treatment plans, the modern 5-year survival rate in 2007 has risen to over 50 percent.

Introduction to Esophogeal Cancer

In the video below, Thoracic Surgeon, Dr. Brian Louie explains esophageal cancer.

The Esophagus
Types of Esophageal Cancer
Risk Factors