Oesophagus Cancer

Overview

The oesophagus has 2 types of lining. Most of it is lined by squamous cells which are similar to our skin cells. Where the oesophagus joins the stomach, it is lined by columnar cells which are similar to the cells lining the rest of the digestive tract.

Oesophageal cancer is the cancer of the cells of the inner lining of the oesophagus.

Squamous cell Carcinoma
Cancer arising from the squamous lining part of the oesophagus.
Adenocarcinoma
Cancer arising from the columnar lining part.

Symptoms

Oesophageal cancer may not present with any symptoms in the early stages. However, common symptoms include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Pain during swallowing
  • Weight loss
  • Heartburn
  • Regurgitation
  • Vomiting blood
  • Black, tarry bowel movements
  • Hoarse voice
  • Persistent cough

When to Seek Treatment

People with the above symptoms will need further evaluation.

Those with Barrett’s oesophagus may consider screening for

oesophageal cancer.

Diagnosis

A gastroscopy will allow the doctor to visualise the cancer and accurately locate where it is in the oesophagus. A tissue biopsy will be obtained to confirm the diagnosis.

An alternative to the gastroscopy is to do a Barium Swallow.

Following cancer diagnosis, a CT scan may be arranged to check if the cancer has spread.

Endoscopic ultrasound, PET scan and Bronchoscopy may be used to determine the stage of the disease.

Treatment

Treatment depends on the location and stage of the disease as well as the general condition of the person.

Surgical treatment followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy may be necessary as additional or alternative treatment.

Surgical treatment ranges from a minimally invasive approach to an open approach. The operation usually involves the removal of the diseased part of the oesophagus (oesophagectomy) and the surrounding lymph nodes. The stomach is then joined to the remaining oesophagus.  

Oesophagus Cancer Treatment Singapore

Causes

  • Not yet known.
  • Related to mutations in the DNA of the cells.

Risk Factors

  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Barrett’s oesophagus
  • Obesity

Consult Our Doctor

Dr Lim Khong Hee
General Surgeon

MBBS (Singapore), M.Med (Surgery), FRCS (Edin), FRCSEd (Gen), FAMS (Surgery)

Oesophagus Conditions or Cancer FAQs

The treatment of oesophageal cancer depends on the location and stage of the disease as well as the general condition of the person. Patients with early stage disease have a better chance of survival.

The recovery will depend on the surgical approach (minimally invasive or open). After oesophagectomy, you may be monitored in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for 1-2 days. The average length of stay in the hospital is between 7-10 days.

Oesophageectomy is a major surgery. The operation involves the removal of the diseased part of the oesophagus and the surrounding lymph nodes. The stomach is then joined to the remaining oesophagus.   

You will not be able to eat or drink immediately after surgery. For some patients, small sips of water may be possible after 4-5 days.

A week after surgery, you will usually have a swallow study. If the test shows good flow without a leak, you can begin eating. At first, it will be liquids and soft foods. Subsequently, you should be able to tolerate a more normal diet. You will be advised to take small frequent meals and to eat slowly and chew well.

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