The esophagus is the muscular tube extending from the neck to the abdomen, connecting the mouth to the stomach. Esophageal disease may affect any part of the esophagus, and may be genetically inherited or they may be acquired later in life.
Types of Esophageal Disease
There are both malignant and benign forms of esophageal disease, including:
According to the American Cancer Society's most recent estimates for 2012, there will be approximately 17,460 new cases of esophageal cancer diagnosed. While still a relatively rare form of cancer in the United States, it is three to four times more common in men than in women. Two of the most common forms of esophageal cancer are:
- Squamous cell carcinoma: most often affecting the upper and middle esophagus
- Adenocarcinoma: most often occurring in the lower portion of the esophagus, near the stomach
Risk factors for the development of esphageal cancer include:
- Barrett's esophagus
- Heavy alcohol use
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
GERD is a common disorder of the esophagus where stomach contents reflux (regurgitate) into the esophagus, causing inflammation and damage to the esophagus and (sometimes) to the lungs and vocal cords. As many as 25 million Americans may be affected by GERD.
Esophageal Motility Disorders
Esophageal motility disorders are abnormal function of the muscles in the esophagus that can cause swallowing disorders, including GERD, or achalasia (which makes swallowing of food or fluid increasingly difficult).
Diagnosis of Esophageal Disease
Two useful diagnostic tools for assessment of esophageal disease include:
- Esophageal endoscopy: use of a thin, flexible tube (endoscope) with a tiny camera that transmits an image that lets your physician see the esophageal lining
- Manometry: use of a thin, pressure-sensitive tube that measures the pressure of muscle contractions along the interior of the esophagus as you swallow
Why Choose Northwestern Memorial?
The Thoracic Surgery Program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital offers the latest surgical procedures for benign and malignant diseases of the esophagus. Your physician will discuss the most appropriate treatment for esophageal disease.