Causes and Diagnoses

Causes and Diagnoses of Esophageal Cancer

The causes and risk factors of esophageal cancer vary, depending on the type of cancer.  

Risk factors for squamous cell carcinoma include:

  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Achalasia

Although risk factors for development of adenocarcinoma are less understood, individuals with these conditions are at increased risk of developing it:

  • Barret esophagus
  • GERD
  • Long-term acid reflux


If you are experiencing symptoms of esophageal cancer, contact your physician for diagnostic testing. If a tumor is found, your physician may refer you to a cancer specialist for additional diagnostic testing, that may include:

  • Endoscopy: This outpatient procedure uses a thin, flexible tube topped with a camera to allow your physician to examine the esophagus and, if necessary collect a biopsy sample for analysis
  • Barium swallow: This imaging test that uses X-rays to look at your upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan: This imaging test uses X-rays to produce detailed images of the chest and abdomen and organs surrounding the esophagus