Oesophageal cancer is a malignant tumour that grows in the oesophagus, the tube that leads from the throat to the stomach. Two different types of cancer affect the oesophagus:
Several risk factors have been identified for oesophageal adenocarcinoma, including gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), Barrett’s oesophagus, family history of gastrointestinal disorders, older age, obesity, low consumption of fruit and vegetables. Males are more likely than females to be diagnosed with oesophageal adenocarcinoma and die from it.
Barrett’s oesophagus is a condition in which the normal flat-celled (squamous) lining of the oesophagus changes, becoming similar to the glandular tissue that lines the intestine. This change is called metaplasia, which can progress to a more dangerous, pre-cancerous form called dysplasia. In a small number of patients, these changes go on to form oesophageal adenocarcinoma.
While oesophageal cancer is a rare cancer in Australia, with approximately 1,500 new cases each year, unfortunately a similar number of deaths are attributed to oesophageal cancer each year.
As early oesophageal cancer presents non-specific or no symptoms, most oesophageal cancers are diagnosed at advanced stages when treatment options are limited. As a result, most sufferers die within 12 months of diagnosis.
Therefore, earlier detection and more treatment options are needed to improve outcomes for Australians with oesophageal cancer.