The oesophagus is a long hollow muscular tube that runs from your throat to your stomach. Your oesophagus carries the food you swallow to your stomach to be digested.
Cancer arising in the oesophagus is called oesophageal cancer. Early oesophageal cancer usually does not cause symptoms. However, as the cancer grows, it may lead to symptoms such as painful or difficult swallowing, weight loss and coughing up blood. Risk factors for developing oesophageal cancer include smoking, heavy alcohol use, chronic acid reflux and the presence of Barrett’s oesophagus (precancerous changes in the cells of the oesophagus).
Diagnosis can be made with endoscopy and x-rays. Using the endoscope, biopsies (tiny tissue sample) can be collected from suspicious areas in the oesophagus for analysis. Treatments include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. There is a better chance of recovery if oesophageal cancer is found very early. Unfortunately, the majority of oesophageal cancer is often in an advanced stage when it is diagnosed. At later stages, oesophageal cancer can be treated but only rarely can it be cured.