Symptoms, Treatment & Life Expectancy of Metastatic Esophageal Cancer

Submitted by Nic on October 16, 2012

The esophagus is a commonly known as the food pipe. It is a muscular tubular organ that connects the stomach to the pharynx. Metastatic esophageal cancer most commonly affects the squamous cells that line the esophagus. It is one of the deadliest forms of cancer, and it has a high mortality rate.

Risk Factors and Causes

Smoking and the consumption of tobacco, or alcohol are some of the primary causes of such cancers. People suffering from Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) are also more prone to developing metastatic esophageal cancer. The Human papillomavirus (HPV) also increases your chances of contracting this cancer.

Other factors that can increase the chances of one contracting metastatic esophageal cancer include obesity, celiac disease, achalasia, frequent consumption of very hot beverages, and heredity. Demographically, metastatic esophageal cancer is most prevalent in men above 60 years of age.

Diagnosis and Prognosis

The most common metastatic esophageal cancer symptoms are difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia) and pain while swallowing (odynophagia). These are accompanied by rapid weight loss, frequent regurgitation of food, a persistent cough, and vomiting of blood. The diagnosis is usually made after an endoscopic biopsy.

Other methods that are used to diagnose metastatic esophageal cancer include Computer Aided Tomography (CAT) scan, Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan, and Ultrasonography. It must be borne in mind that most cases of metastatic esophageal cancer are only identified during the later stages. As such, metastatic esophageal cancer prognosis is considerably poor. This is because the disease is usually only diagnosed at a later stage since signs and symptoms in the early stages of the cancer often go unnoticed. Unfortunately, 85 percent of people who have been diagnosed with metastatic esophageal cancer have a life expectancy of merely one year from the date of diagnosis.


Surgery is considered to be the most effective form of metastatic esophageal cancer treatment. However, the mortality rate for surgery is as high as 30 percent, and in many advanced stages, surgery simply isn’t possible.

Chemotherapy is another treatment modality that is often utilized; however, the proximity of the esophagus to the vital organs such as the heart and lungs means that there are numerous restrictions and complications with this type of treatment as well. More recently, chemotherapeutic drugs are increasingly being used in the treatment of metastatic esophageal cancer. In some cases the treatment is palliative in nature and does not increase the chances of survival.


  • http://www.mountsinai.org/patient-care/service-areas/surgery/divisions/surgical-oncology/esophageal-cancer
  • http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra035010
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