Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Esophageal Cancer Anatomy

To better understand esophageal cancer, it helps to understand the anatomy of the esophagus.

The esophagus is a muscular tube that propels food from the mouth, to the stomach. It begins in the pharynx, just below the base of the tongue, and passes through the chest, next to the spine. It then passes through the diaphragm before emptying into the stomach.

The bottom of the esophagus opens during swallowing, and then closes after the food has entered the stomach. This prevents food from leaking back into the esophagus.

Anatomy examples:

  • Junction of esophagus and stomach
  • Entire intestinal tract

Last Updated: Nov 3, 2008 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Esophageal Cancer References
  1. Avidan B, Sonnenberg A, Schnell TG, Chejfec G, Metz A, Sontag SJ. Hiatal hernia size, Barrett's length, and severity of acid reflux are all risk factors for esophageal adenocarcinoma Am J Gastroenterol. 2002 Aug;97(8):1930-6. [12190156]
  2. Lightdale CJ, Kulkarni KG. Role of endoscopic ultrasonography in the staging and follow-up of esophageal cancer. J Clin Oncol. 2005 Jul 10;23(20):4483-9. [16002838]
  3. Shaheen N, Ransohoff DF. Gastroesophageal reflux, barrett esophagus, and esophageal cancer: scientific review. JAMA. 2002 Apr 17;287(15):1972-81. [11960540]
  4. Stathopoulos GP, Tsiaras N. Epidemiology and pathogenesis of esophageal cancer: management and its controversial results (review). Oncol Rep. 2003 Mar-Apr;10(2):449-54. [12579288]
  5. Wong R, Malthaner R. Esophageal cancer: a systematic review. Curr Probl Cancer. 2000 Nov-Dec;24(6):297-373. [11198836]
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