Esophageal cancer

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Non-cancerous tumours and conditions of the esophagus

A non-cancerous (benign) tumour of the esophagus is a growth that does not spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. A non-cancerous condition of the esophagus is a change to esophagus cells, but it is not cancer. Non-cancerous tumours or conditions are not usually life-threatening.

Leiomyoma

Leiomyoma is the most common type of non-cancerous tumour found in the esophagus. It starts in the smooth muscle cells and is usually found in the lower two-thirds of the esophagus. These are benign, slow growing tumours, but sometimes they can become cancerous.

The most common symptom of a leiomyoma is having problems swallowing. It is usually diagnosed with an upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy.

Surgery to remove the tumour is done if the leiomyoma causes symptoms. Leiomyoma does not usually come back (recur) once it is treated.

Esophageal webs and esophageal rings

Esophageal webs and rings are the most common non-cancerous condition of the esophagus. They do not usually develop into cancer.

Esophageal webs are thin membranes that form across the esophagus. They are made up of the mucosa and submucosa layers of tissue. Esophageal webs can occur anywhere in the esophagus, but they usually start in the upper part. People with Plummer-Vinson syndrome have a high risk of developing esophageal webs.

Esophageal rings are circles of tissue that can make the esophagus narrow. An esophageal ring is made up of mucosa, submucosa and muscle. Esophageal rings can occur anywhere in the esophagus, but they usually develop in the lower part. Sometimes more than one ring develops.

Esophageal webs and rings do not usually cause symptoms. When they do cause symptoms, the most common complaint is difficulty swallowing.

Tests to diagnose webs and rings include upper gastrointestinal (GI) series and upper GI endoscopy.

Esophageal webs and rings usually don’t need to be treated, unless they cause symptoms. Sometimes doctors will stretch the esophagus, which is called esophageal dilation. Esophageal dilation is done using an endoscope. The doctor passes a dilator down the throat to stretch the narrowed part of the esophagus. There are different types of dilators. Some dilators are flexible tubes. The doctor can use a series of bigger and bigger tubes to open the esophagus. Other types of dilators use a balloon to open the esophagus. In rare cases, surgery may be done to remove esophageal webs or rings.

upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy

A procedure that uses an endoscope (a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and lens) to examine or treat the esophagus, stomach and duodenum.

Doctors may remove cells or tissues to look at under a microscope. They may also use upper GI endoscopy to remove tumours.

Also called esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) or gastroscopy.

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