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What is esophageal squamous cell carcinoma?

Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma is a type of esophageal carcinoma that can affect any part of the esophagus; it is usually located in the upper or middle third of the esophagus.

What causes esophageal squamous cell carcinoma?

The exact cause is unknown; cigarette smoking and alcohol abuse are usually the principal risk factors.

How is esophageal squamous cell carcinoma diagnosed?

A scope is used to examine your esophagus, called an endoscopy procedure. During the endoscopy, your physician passes a hollow tube that has a lens down into your throat and esophagus; this helps the physician examine your esophagus. A sample of tissue may be collected and sent to a lab to perform a biopsy. 

If you are diagnosed with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, the stage of cancer will be determined by your physician, and treatment options will be discussed at this time. 

How is esophageal squamous cell carcinoma treated?

What treatments you receive for esophageal squamous cell carcinoma are based on the types of cells involved in your cancer, your cancer’s stage, your overall health and your preferences for treatment.

Treatment options include:

  • Surgery; surgery to remove the cancer can be used alone or in combination of other treatments.
  • Chemotherapy; this is a drug treatment that uses chemicals to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy drugs are usually used before or after surgery. Chemotherapy can also be combined with radiation therapy. In patients with advanced cancer that has spread beyond the esophagus, chemotherapy may be used alone to help relieve signs and symptoms caused by the cancer
  • Radiation therapy; this kind of therapy uses high-powered energy beams to kill cancer cells. Radiation can come from a machine outside your body that aims the beams at your cancer, or radiation can be placed in your body near the cancer called, brachytherapy.